November 16, 2014
During a 42-20 Patriots win over the Colts in Week 11, Indianapolis safety Mike Adams picked off two Tom Brady passes and gave the footballs to Colts assistant equipment manager Brian Seabrooks. While Seabrooks and equipment manager Sean Sullivan examined the footballs to see how the Patriots prepared theirs -- in order to, according to what Sullivan told investigator Ted Wells, "make sure no one is doing a better job" -- they noticed that the footballs seemed to be tacky, spongy and soft when squeezed.
January 17, 2015
On the day before the AFC Championship Game between the Patriots and the Colts, Indianapolis general manager Ryan Grigson sent an email to the NFL expressing his team's concerns about the air pressure of game footballs used by New England. In the email, Grigson attached a message from Sullivan that read in part, "it is well known around the league that after the Patriots gameballs are checked by the officials and brought out for game usage the ballboys for the patriots will let our some air with a ball needle because their quarterback likes a smaller football so he can grip it better. It would be great if someone would be able to check the air in the game balls as the game goes on so that they don't get an illegal advantage."
January 18, 2015
In the second quarter of the AFC title game, Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson intercepted a Brady pass. The ball made its way to the Colts sideline and eventually ended up in the hands of Seabrooks, who said later that the football felt similar to the ones he'd felt in Indianapolis in Week 11. After an intern gauged the pressure of the football, Seabrooks brought the ball to Sullivan, who alerted league officials, essentially sparking the Deflategate investigation. Patriots and Colts game balls were collected at halftime and taken to the officials locker room to be tested. Eleven Patriots game balls were tested and measured below the minimum legal air-pressure threshold of 12.5 psi. The footballs were re-inflated before the second half. Four Colts balls were tested, according to the Wells investigation, and three measured below 12.5 psi on one of the two gauges used to measure the air pressure. No Colts balls were re-inflated because all four tested within the legal range on at least one gauge. In the second half, the Patriots built on their 17-7 halftime lead and blew out the Colts on their way to a Super Bowl berth, 45-7.
January 19, 2015
After the game in the early morning hours on Monday, WTHR columnist Bob Kravitz tweeted the following message. "Breaking: A league source tells me the NFL is investigating the possibility the Patriots deflated footballs Sunday night. More to come." Later that morning, Brady spoke with WEEI's Dennis and Callahan Show and laughed at a question about Kravitz's deflation report: "I think I've heard it all at this point," he said. According to the Wells investigation, Brady spoke with Patriots equipment assistant John Jastremski -- the first cell phone communication between the two in months, according to the Wells Report -- soon after the WEEI interview. The pair also met in the "QB room" later that day for the first time in Jastremski's tenure with the Patriots, according to what Jastremski told investigators.
January 20, 2015
NFL senior executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent told Pro Football Talk that the league expected to finish its investigation into the game balls used during the AFC title game in "two or three days."
January 21, 2015
ESPN reports that the NFL found 11 of 12 Patriots game balls in the AFC Championship to be "significantly below" -- "2 pounds per square inch below" -- the 12.5 psi legal minimum, a finding that the Wells Report later refuted.
January 22, 2015
In Brady's first press conference following Kravitz's report, he flatly denied any wrongdoing. "I didn't alter the ball in any way," Brady said. "I have no knowledge of anything. I have no knowledge of any wrongdoing."
January 23, 2015
The NFL declared that Ted Wells, the attorney who investigated the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal, and NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash would lead the investigation into the game balls used by the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
January 24, 2015
Patriots coach Bill Belichick held an impromptu, and fiery, press conference explaining that the cold and rainy weather at Gillette Stadium during the AFC title game was enough for the air pressure in footballs to be decreased over the course of the first half. Belichick explained that he'd spent "a significant amount of time" researching the topic and performing experiments on footballs in order to get to the bottom of the issue. The presser eventually became known for Belichick's reference to actress Marisa Tomei's character in the movie "My Cousin Vinnie." "I’m not a scientist," he said. "I’m not an expert in footballs. I’m not an expert in football measurements. I’m just telling you what I know, I would not say I’m Mona Lisa Vito of the football world, as she was in the car-expertise area."
January 27, 2015
Deflategate was one of the hot topics of conversation during Media Day in Phoenix. Brady was peppered with questions about air pressure in footballs but remained focused on the upcoming Super Bowl against the Seahawks. "I have no reaction to that," he said. "I don't have any speculation on anything that's happened. That will all play itself out after the season." On the Monday of Super Bowl week, Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft made headlines when he defended Brady and Belichick firmly. Kraft said that he expected an apology from the league once it was determined that there had been no wrongdoing when it came to the preparation of the Patriots footballs before the AFC Championship.
February 1, 2015
Brady, Belichick and the Patriots beat the Seahawks, 28-24, and won their fourth Super Bowl in 14 seasons thanks in part to a last-minute interception at the goal line from undrafted rookie corner Malcolm Butler. Brady was named the game's MVP, which was the third time he had received that honor in his career. The next day, Brady hugged NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and posed for pictures with the MVP trophy before participating in a final press conference and heading back to New England.
The Wells Investigation Interviews
Brady, Jastremski and scores of others -- including officials locker room attendant for the Patriots Jim McNally -- were interviewed by Wells and his team. According to Wells, Brady said he knew nothing about the permissible inflation range set by the NFL until after the Patriots played the Jets on October 16. It was during that game that Brady complained angrily about the feel of the game footballs.
April 23, 2015
The Patriots -- without Brady, who reportedly had a prior family commitment -- visited the White House to celebrate their most recent championship with president Barack Obama. Much to the chagrin of Rob Gronkowski, Obama took a playful jab at the controversy in which the Patriots had been embroiled since January. "I usually tell a bunch of jokes at these events, but with the Patriots in town, I was worried that 11 out of 12 of them would fall flat."
May 6, 2015
Wells and his team released a 243-page report, which came to the conclusion that it was "more probable than not that Brady was at least generally aware" of some wrongdoing that resulted in the illegal release of air from Patriots game balls. The report used scientific findings from Exponent, a consulting firm, as well as text message conversations between Brady and Jastremski and Jastremski and McNally as evidence to support its conclusions.
May 7, 2015
Brady appeared at Salem State University as part of the school's renowned speaker series. It was an event that had been planned in advance of the Super Bowl, and Brady held to the commitment. Longtime sports broadcaster Jim Gray posed Brady several questions about Deflategate and the Wells Report, but the quarterback held back and answered by saying that he hadn't had time to digest the entire report.
May 11, 2015
The NFL announced that Brady would be suspended for the first four games of the season and that the Patriots would be fined $1 million and docked to draft picks -- a first-rounder in 2016 and a fourth-rounder in 2017. Though Brady remained quiet on the subject, his agent Don Yee slammed the punishment in conversations with several media outlets and continued to call into question the credibility of the Wells Report.
May 14, 2015
The NFLPA officially files an appeal of Brady's four-game suspension. On the same day, the Patriots published a website called "The Wells Report in Context" which argued the Wells Report nearly point-for-point. Within a week, the players association asked Goodell to recuse himself as the appointed arbitrator in Brady's appeal, but that request was denied. The NFLPA's executive director DeMaurice Smith later told ESPN's Outside the Lines that the Wells Report delivered exactly what the NFL wanted.
May 19, 2015
At the NFL owners meetings in Arizona, Kraft told reporters that he would not appeal the league's decision to fine the team and take away two of its draft picks over the next two years. Kraft said that he accepted the punishment reluctantly, and he admitted to no wrongdoing by anyone on his team, but he insisted that he wanted to put an end to "the rhetoric" between the Patriots and the league.
June 23, 2015
Brady and his NFLPA representatives, including lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, met with Goodell and other league officials in New York to appeal his four-game suspension. Brady did not meet with reporters before or after the 10-hour hearing, but Kessler said afterward that, "I think we put in a very compelling case."
July 28, 2015
The NFL announced that commissioner Roger Goodell upheld Brady's four-game suspension, emphasizing that new information disclosed by Brady before his June 23 hearing swayed the ruling.
According to the league, on or shortly before March 6, the day that Brady was to meet with Ted Wells and other investigators, Brady had his cell phone destroyed. Brady had used the phone for four months and sent nearly 10,000 text messages in that time. None of the messages could be retrieved from the device, the league said.
The league also noted that Brady did not disclose until June 18 that his phone had been destroyed -- almost four months after investigators originally asked for electronic information from Brady.
In its announcement of Goodell's ruling, the league wrote: "Based on the Wells Report and the evidence presented at the hearing, Commissioner Goodell concluded in his decision that Brady was aware of, and took steps to support, the actions of other team employees to deflate game footballs below the levels called for by the NFL's Official Playing Rules. The commissioner found that Brady’s deliberate destruction of potentially relevant evidence went beyond a mere failure to cooperate in the investigation and supported a finding that he had sought to hide evidence of his own participation in the underlying scheme to alter the footballs."
Sept. 3, 2015
After the two sides meet in the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals before Judge Richard M. Berman on Aug. 12 and Aug. 19, Berman issues a ruling nullifying Brady's four-game suspension and the quarterback becomes eligible to play for the Patriots in Week 1. Goodell says in a statement the NFL has appealed the ruling. The league does not seek a stay to keep Brady from playing while they appeal, but later in the month seeks an expedited briefing schedule for its appeal.
April 25, 2016
A three-judge panel in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, after listening to both sides' arguments on March 3, reverses Berman's decision with a 2-1 ruling that reinstates Brady's four-game suspension.
The majority opinion stated: "We hold that the commissioner properly exercised his broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement and that his procedural rulings were properly grounded in that agreement and did not deprive Brady of fundamental fairness. Accordingly, we reverse the judgement of the district court and remand with instructions to confirm the award."
The ruling was less about the facts of the case and ball deflation and more about upholding the power of the collective bargaining agreement and ensuring Goodell’s authority.
May 23, 2016
Brady's lawyers, including newly hired Ted Olson, the former U.S. Solicitor General with a wealth of Supreme Court experience, ask for either a rehearing in front of the same three-judge panel, or a new hearing, i.e. “en banc,” before the entire circuit. The court is expected to rule on their petition in five or six weeks.
July 13, 2016
The Second Circuit denies Brady and the NFLPA’s petition to rehear the case. Brady will have to take the case to the US Supreme Court if he wants to continue to fight the suspension.
July 15, 2016
Brady announces on his Facebook page that he has "made the difficult decision to longer proceed with the legal process" and he will accept his four-game suspension. He can practice in training camp, which opens July 27, and participate in all exhibition games, but during the suspension will not be allowed to appear at the Patriots facility or have any contact with the team and coaching staff. He will be docked $235,294 of his base salary. He can return against the Browns in Cleveland for the 1 p.m. game on Oct. 9. The NFLPA is mulling whether to pursue the labor aspects of the case in The Supreme Court with the intention of taking a step toward fixing what it called a "broken system" two days earlier when the request for a rehearing was denied.