clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

DeflateGate: Six Initial Takeaways from Tom Brady's Appeal Hearing Transcript

Here are six quick-hit points addressed during Tom Brady's appeal hearing.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

After Patriots quarterback Tom Brady appealed his four game suspension for his alleged role in the DeflateGate scandal/farce, ESPN's Adam Schefter called Brady his own "greatest ally". Now we know why Schefter was told that: it seems to be the truth.

While the already made-up minds of those who think Brady is guilty please click here, the rest of you can enjoy six quick-hit takeaways of yesterday's release of the appeal hearing transcript. 457 pages of fun and witch hunting.

Brady – under oath – denied any wrongdoing

Surprise! Tom Brady said that Tom Brady did not do anything wrong. When asked by NFLPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler if he directed, instructed or authorized any change of air pressure inside footballs Brady answered as follows (p.98):

Q. Okay. As you are sitting here today, I am going to ask you to be very clear. Did you ever give anyone any directions or instructions or authorization, anything, for the AFC Championship Game that they should alter, change, lower the pressure of footballs?

A. Absolutely not.

This is important because – and it cannot be stressed enough – Brady testified under oath. Lying under oath is against the law, no matter the circumstances, so Brady potentially had a lot more to lose than four games if being found guilty of that. According to the Houston Chronicle's Stephanie Stradley, the fact that Brady testified while under oath will most likely also be considered by a federal judge.

Can it be that Brady isn't the evil genius that plotted a ball deflation scheme and lied about it? In the words of good old Ted Wells: it is more probable than not.

Brady talked about his phone

Ah, the destroyed phone. Brady, who also talked in great detail about his pre-game ball preparation and his conversations with Jim Jastremski following the AFC Championship Game (because he wanted to ensure him he was not in trouble and to talk about the Super Bowl, a first for Jastremski), was asked quite a lot about the phone. He gave the following reasoning for his decision to have phones destroyed on a regular basis (p.90):

I think whenever I'm done with the phone, I don't want anybody ever to see the content of the phone, photos. Obviously there is a log with the smart phones of all my e-mail communications. So in those folders, there is player contracts. There's, you know, endorsement deals. There's -- along with photos of my family and so forth that I just don't want anyone to ever come in contact with those.

Brady also told that he gave the phone to his assistant and that he was told by his lawyers that there was a request about his phone but it was not deemed "proper" (p.85) for Brady to turn it over. Furthermore, Wells did not mention any consequences for a failure to hand over the phone or its records.

Lorin Reisner, who led the NFL's cross examination of Brady and other witnesses (and was a member of the "independent" investigative team of the Paul, Weiss law firm) also asked Brady about the communications of John Jastremski and Jim McNally (p.137). Brady gave an answer that can be applied to almost the entire Wells Report:

I think that you can interpret however you want to interpret them.

Speaking of Wells...

Ted Wells did not tell Brady about a punishment for not handing over documents

Kessler asked Wells about a number of things, for instance why he opted to choose Exponent for the scientific analysis (p.280) and why he did not think that Brady's testimony was credible (p.304):

Q. You rejected the testimony of Mr. Brady that he knew nothing about the ball deflation in the AFC Championship Game, right? You rejected that?

A. I did reject it based on my assessment of his credibility and his refusal or decision not to give me what I requested in terms of responsive documents. And that decision, so we can all be clear and I will say it to Mr. Brady, in my almost 40 years of practice, I think that was one of the most ill-advised decisions I have ever seen because it hurt how I viewed his credibility.

Basically, Brady did not give up his phone because he did not need to. Wells was clearly not happy about this but told Brady that no punishment would follow for not handing over his phone (p.336):

The request what I asked for, I made clear I didn't want to take access to your phone. Mr. Yee can do it. I did not, as Mr. Kessler said -- I want to be clear -- I did not tell Mr. Brady at any time that he would be subject to punishment for not giving -- not turning over the documents. I did not say anything like that.

Wells also states how he came to his conclusion that it was "more probable than not" the balls were tampered with by stringing together loose bits of information (p.317):

If those text messages did not exist, and all we had was a break in protocol and he goes into the bathroom and just the science, the result might very well be totally different. But when you combine the break in protocol, going into the bathroom, the text messages and the science, we felt comfortable reaching a judgment. It was a totality of all of the evidence analysis that gave us comfort in deciding it was more probable than not. We looked at all of the evidence together. And that's what juries do all the time.

The science was questioned quite a bit

Surprise! Again! The science behind the Wells Report has been disproved numerous times – this has also been part of the appeal hearing when Reisner and NFLPA attorney David Greenspan interviewed Dean Edward Snyder of the Yale School of Management about the science behind the Wells report. Safe to say, Snyder harshly criticizes Exponent's findings (p.173):

You can read the Exponent report forwards, backwards, upside down. You see time referred to again and again and again and again. However, you have to look at what they actually did, the statistical analysis that they actually did. They left time out of the analysis that they said was the most important.

Reisner and Kessler also interviewed Exponent's Robert Caligiuri, who himself criticized the findings of Snyder and the AEI Report regarding the footballs – which "makes no sense" (p.370) – and basically just defended himself and his team.

The Ravens and Colts started the whole thing

Enclosed to yesterday's filing by the NFLPA is not only the transcript of the appeal hearing but also a number of documents about the whole affair. What we learn by those is that the Baltimore Ravens' special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg contacted Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, who subsequently notified equipment manager Sean Sullivan, about issues with the kicking balls (note: those balls are not prepared by a team but arrive in the official's locker room sealed).

Sullivan then contacted Colts general manager Ryan Grigson to talk to him about this fact as well as a rumor – without actual sources or specific incidents mentioned – about the Patriots:

Grigson then went on to inform the league, in this particular case the NFL's Senior Vice President of Football Operations Dave Gardi (who is famous for sending the Patriots an e-mail with wrong data in it):

And so it began...

Players do not receive the Game Day Operations Manual

Gardi was contacted by the Colts but apparently did not forward this message to one of the most important people of game day operations: Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent, who testified that he first heard about the problem during the game (p.229):

It was first brought to my knowledge approximately six or seven minutes remaining in the second half [sic] of the AFC Championship Game. There was a knock on the door by the General Manager from the Indianapolis Colts, Ryan Grigson. He proceeded in the room and he brought to myself, and Mike Kensil was actually sitting to my left, and said, "We are playing with a small ball." That was my first knowledge of the situation.

Q. You had never heard anything about the Colts having made allegations before the game started prior to that time?

A. No, sir.

What also came to light through the transcripts is that Kessler was not allowed by the arbitrator – Goodell – to ask Vincent about the NFL's delegation in terms of a ruling being made (p.242). This is an important part because Goodell letting Vincent or anybody else make the ruling would be a direct violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Another important point was the following, when Kessler asked Vincent about the "Game Day Operations Manual", which Brady apparently violated (p.250):

Q. Now, the policy that you cite in your letter, in your discipline letter regarding Mr. Brady -- well, let me ask you this. Where do you find the policy that says that footballs can't be altered with respect to pressure? Is that going to be in the competitive integrity policy that Mr. Wells cited in his report?

A. Game-Day Operations Manual.

Q. In the manual? Okay. Is it correct, to your knowledge, that the manual is given to clubs and GMs and owners, et cetera, but the manual is not given out to players; is that correct, to your knowledge?

A. That's correct, to my knowledge.

Q. In fact, when you were a player, you were never given that manual, right?

A. No.

This last bit of Kessler's examination of Vincent is the basis of the NFLPA's claim that Brady was punished without being given prior notice of the policy in place – likely a key argument in front of federal judge Richard M. Berman.


As said above, the whole testimony is 457 pages long, so it is quite the extensive read about the entirety of DeflateGate. While this article focuses only on six points that immediately jumped out there are numerous others in there worthy of consideration. The comment section of this article provides some of them, the above-mentioned Stradley does as well and the rest can be found in the document itself. Furthermore, Rich Hill is currently working on an extensive summary that will be published later today.