FOXBORO, Mass. - Quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots organization have gone on the offensive.
The morning after the NFL upheld his four-game suspension for using intentionally deflated footballs, Brady reiterated his innocence in a post on Facebook and vowed to fight the punishment in the courts. He will have the backing of team owner, Robert Kraft, who called the league's ruling "unfathomable" in a surprise appearance at coach Bill Belichick's training camp press conference.
"I was wrong to put my faith in the league," said Kraft, adding that he regretted not taking legal action against the NFL in May.
Kraft did not fight the league-imposed $1 million fine or loss of two draft picks, the other component of the DeflateGate penalties levied against the franchise. Saying he'd "acted in good faith" by not battling the NFL on that front, Kraft had hoped such diplomacy would help clear Brady's name in the eyes of the league.
"The decision handed down by the league yesterday is unfathomable to me," Kraft said. "I continue to believe (in) and unequivocally support Tom Brady."
Brady was not available to talk to the media on Wednesday. In the Facebook posting early Wednesday morning, Brady said he was "very disappointed by the NFL's decision to uphold the 4 game suspension against me. I did nothing wrong, and no one in the Patriots organization did either."
Brady added that it was "disappointing that the commissioner upheld my suspension based upon a standard that it was 'probable' that I was 'generally aware' of misconduct. The fact is that neither I, nor any equipment person, did anything of which we have been accused. He dismissed my hours of testimony and it is disappointing that he found it unreliable."
Goodell wrote in a 20-page decision upholding Brady's suspension on Tuesday that one of the most troubling aspects of the case was the quarterback's decision to order that his cell phone, which had been in use from last November through early March, be destroyed. Goodell suggested that Brady told his assistant to destroy the phone either the day of or the day before his March 6 meeting with NFL investigators, including league-appointed independent investigator Ted Wells.
The NFLPA said in a statement issued late Tuesday that it will appeal the decision in federal court.
Brady took issue with how Goodell characterized the cell phone destruction, and that the commissioner unfairly used it as a significant basis for upholding the suspension. Among other things, Brady said the phone was actually broken.
"I also disagree with yesterdays narrative surrounding my cellphone," he wrote on Facebook. "I replaced my broken Samsung phone with a new iPhone 6 AFTER my attorneys made it clear to the NFL that my actual phone device would not be subjected to investigation under ANY circumstances. As a member of a union, I was under no obligation to set a new precedent going forward, nor was I made aware at any time during Mr. Wells investigation, that failing to subject my cell phone to investigation would result in ANY discipline."
Brady said he had "never written, texted, emailed to anybody at anytime, anything related to football air pressure before this issue was raised at the AFC Championship game in January. To suggest that I destroyed a phone to avoid giving the NFL information it requested is completely wrong."
Brady said he and his attorneys attempted to help the NFL after his suspension was issued on May 11 to "reconcile the record and fully cooperate with the investigation" by turning over "detailed pages of cell phone records and all of the emails that Mr. Wells requested. We even contacted the phone company to see if there was any possible way we could retrieve any/all of the actual text messages from my old phone. In short, we exhausted every possibility to give the NFL everything we could and offered to go thru the identity for every text and phone call during the relevant time."
The quarterback suggested the NFL used the cell phone destruction unfairly in rendering its decision. "There is no 'smoking gun' and this controversy is manufactured to distract from the fact they have zero evidence of wrongdoing."
Brady wrote that he had hoped to reach a settlement with the NFL before Goodell's ruling was announced.
"I authorized the NFLPA to make a settlement offer to the NFL so that we could avoid going to court and put this inconsequential issue behind us as we move forward into this season. The discipline was upheld without any counter offer. I respect the Commissioner's authority, but he also has to respect the CBA and my rights as a private citizen. I will not allow my unfair discipline to become a precedent for other NFL players without a fight."
Brady concluded by thanking his "family, friends and our fans who have supported me since the false accusations were made after the AFC Championship game. I look forward to the opportunity to resume playing with my teammates and winning more games for the New England Patriots."