FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have gone on the offensive.
The day after the NFL upheld his four-game suspension for using intentionally deflated footballs, Brady issued a statement on Facebook Wednesday morning reiterating his innocence and vowing to fight the punishment in court. Brady has the backing of team owner Robert Kraft, who called the NFL's ruling "unfathomable" in a surprise appearance Wednesday at coach Bill Belichick's news conference at Gillette Stadium as players reported to training camp.
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"I was wrong to put my faith in the league," a defiant Kraft said as Belichick looked on.
Though Kraft never mentioned Roger Goodell by name, the NFL commissioner wrote the 20-page decision released on Tuesday upholding Brady's ban.
Kraft said he regretted not fighting the league in May when it originally suspended Brady and imposed a $1-million fine and the loss of two draft picks on the team. He said his decision not to do so was because he had wrongly believed such diplomacy would help clear his quarterback's name.
"The league's handling of this entire process has been extremely frustrating and disconcerting," he said. " . . . Tom Brady is a person of great integrity and is a great ambassador of the game, both on and off the field.
"Yet for reasons that I cannot comprehend, there are those in the league office who are more determined to prove that they were right rather than admit any culpability of their own or take any responsibility for the initiation of a process and ensuing investigation that was flawed."
Brady was not made available to talk to the media on Wednesday. Belichick dodged all questions about Brady and DeflateGate, saying he has no plans to address it in the future. Belichick said Brady's suspension and the scandal won't change how the team prepares for the upcoming season.
While the players are preparing on the field, lawyers for both the NFL and the NFLPA are preparing to square off in the courtroom. On Tuesday, the NFL made a pre-emptive strike when it filed papers in federal court in Manhattan seeking confirmation of Goodell's decision. Judge Richard M. Berman has been assigned to the NFL's case.
On Wednesday, the NFLPA filed an appeal in federal court in Minneapolis to vacate the four-game suspension. Judge Richard H. Kyle has been assigned to the NFLPA's case.
Goodell lives in New York but owns a home in Maine, where there are a number of Patriot fans. The Portland Press-Herald reported on Wednesday that the NFL had reached out to the Scarborough, Maine, police to let them know that the league was going to release the decision and that they might want to beef up patrols around Goodell's $6.5-million home.
In his decision, Goodell wrote that one of the most troubling aspects of the case was Brady's decision to order that his cellphone 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.
Brady took issue with how Goodell characterized the cellphone destruction, and said that the commissioner unfairly used it as a significant basis for upholding the suspension. Among other things, Brady said the phone actually was broken.
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 by turning over "detailed pages of cellphone 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."
Brady suggested that the NFL used the cellphone 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."
Kraft, who refused to take questions after his statement, clearly supports Brady.
Said Kraft: "It is completely incomprehensible to me that the league continues to take steps to disparage one of its all-time great players."