As Tom Brady waits to hear the outcome of his appeal of a four-game suspension over the Patriots' use of underinflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game, he received an unequivocal message of support from Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Theismann.
Theismann said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell should exonerate Brady and overturn the suspension. He also criticized Goodell for taking so long to render his decision on Brady's appeal, which was heard June 23 in Manhattan.
"I do not believe that Tom Brady should have been suspended in the first place, and I still don't believe he should be suspended,'' Theismann said Wednesday from Boise, Idaho, where he had a speaking engagement.
"There isn't anything in the Ted Wells report that said, 'Tom Brady told someone to [underinflate the footballs].' To me, there's nothing conclusive in there that says he directed anyone to do anything.''
Brady was suspended May 11 for violating the NFL policy on the integrity of the game, less than a week after attorney Ted Wells' months-long investigation concluded it was "more probable than not'' that the quarterback was "at least generally aware'' of the use of deflated footballs against the Colts on Jan. 18 at Gillette Stadium.
Hall of Famers Jim Kelly, Troy Aikman and Joe Montana publicly criticized Brady for what they believe was his deliberate use of underinflated balls. Theismann is convinced Brady didn't do it.
"He has absolutely everything in the world to lose and nothing to gain in this kind of situation,'' he said. "You ask yourself a question: Why? What would be Tom's motivation?
"I've known Tom for a lot of years,'' said Theismann, who has not spoken to Brady since the AFC Championship Game. "Tom Brady loves professional football. . . .I just can't believe he'd do it.''Theismann is skeptical of the Wells report, which he believes raised just as many questions as answers.
"They said 11 of the 12 Patriots balls were underinflated,'' Theismann said. "Well, was there a problem with the gauges? The officials handle the football as much as the quarterback through the first half of the game. They didn't notice anything? And three of the four balls used by the Colts were underinflated, but they didn't measure all of them. There's a series of questions I just don't understand.''
What infuriates Theismann nearly as much as the suspension is the lengthy delay over the appeal.
"Why in heaven's name has it taken this long to make a decision?'' he said. "Teams are reporting for training camp, and the appeal happened a month ago, and yet the commissioner's office continues to sit on whatever verdict [Goodell] wants to come out with.''
Once the decision is made public, "it's going to be a bad reflection on the office of the commissioner,'' Theismann said. "If you uphold the four games, it's going to be looked at by a lot of people as too harsh. If it's reduced, the question will be, 'Why did you give him four in the first place?' ''