WHITE PLAINS -- While Tom Brady's four-game suspension was being announced and his reputation sullied for conduct "detrimental to the integrity" of the NFL, the only quarterback ever to beat him in a Super Bowl -- and do it twice! -- stood in a local restaurant blissfully holding an adorable puppy.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning was addressing the crowd at a sponsorship event for Guiding Eyes for the Blind when the league announced its suspension of Brady and other discipline against the Patriots. The team was fined a record $1 million and docked next year's first-round draft pick as well as a fourth-rounder in 2017.
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"I think it's about integrity and you have to follow the rules," Manning told reporters after his remarks and a photo op with the pup. "If someone's breaking rules, I understand you're going to get punished for it."
Manning was told by the reporters about the verdict.
"Anytime you lose a starting quarterback for four games and draft picks, it's a pretty big statement," he said "Obviously the NFL is serious about not messing with the integrity of the game no matter how big or little the issue is."
At one point this offseason, Manning said he wanted to find out for himself just how big or little the issue is. He worked out with an underinflated football, the kind the Patriots and Brady had been accused of using in the AFC Championship Game against the Colts.
"There is a noticeable difference," Manning said. "Whether it's an advantage or not, I guess that's dependent on what a quarterback likes."
Manning took no pleasure in Brady's suspension.
"Tom's been a friend of mine," he said. "I don't like to see anybody getting suspended. I don't like to see anybody getting in trouble. I don't like to see anything happen to the NFL or to a player or to another quarterback. In no way am I glad to see this happen."
But, as he said, there are repercussions to breaking rules. Suspensions and draft picks are some of those penalties. A tarnished image is another. Brady's legacy, until now decorated only by positives such as MVPs and Super Bowl rings, is sure to take a hit from this episode. Manning, himself a two-time Super Bowl MVP, said he doesn't think it will overshadow all that Brady has accomplished.
"Tom, he's still one of the best in the business," Manning said. "Coming off a great year and championships, he's won a lot -- I don't think he's worried about legacy right now. I'm sure he'll be ready to get back playing and playing good football."
Barring a reduction of the suspension in the appeals process, that won't be until Week 6.