Upon reflection: Assessing NFL, Tom Brady and Patriots punishments


Upon reflection: Assessing NFL, Tom Brady and Patriots punishments

Before the NFL handed down its multi-tiered punishments in the Deflategate situation, I went on record that a sanction was necessary for Tom Brady if the quarterback was indeed involved in directing the underinflating of game footballs. My thought was that the spanking should constitute two games, no more. The issue was the integrity of the game and when you compromise that, even if “integrity of the game” is an elusive phrase for the NFL, there are necessarily consequences.

With the release of the Ted Wells report and the fallout, and an overnight to consider it, the opinion stands: two games for Brady. Not the four of the initial decision, which likely gets reduced anyway.

[MORE DEFLATEGATE: Tom Brady suspended four games, Patriots lose two draft picks]

But along with that are some other impressions and thoughts. In no particular order:

* The Patriots, fined $1 million and losing two draft choices, obviously are being punished for a body of work, not just this incident. I have no problem with that; repeat offenders earn progressively harsher punishments, and should, since the “repeat” says that the first (second? Third?) message didn’t get through.

* Brady’s deflation and it is his; no equipment staffer tinkers with such things as footballs without instructions from the centerpiece of the franchise. Getting caught earns punishment from the league; doing it without Brady’s blessing earns a beheading.

* Deflating game footballs ranks with using a corked bat. When the problem was discovered, as it was, based on the report, during a game, Brady should have been ejected or the game forfeited. Conviction without due process? Yep. But there isn’t due process when an official flags holding or pass interference, and violations of rules at the NFL level should be dealt with on a zero-tolerance basis.

[FANTASY FOOTBALL: Fallout from Brady's suspension]

* The NFL’s inconsistent discipline – Brady for involvement in underinflating footballs is getting double the suspension that was initially put on Ray Rice for what ultimately qualified as criminal battery – is an entirely separate issue from Brady’s or the Patriots’ sanctions. Inconsistent punishment does not mean that there shouldn’t be any. Part of the problem here is that the NFL is dealing with a lot of first-time misdeeds, whether Spygate, Bountygate, Deflategate or whatevergate. Of course there will be inconsistencies.

And the main reflection…

My respect for former Bears quarterback Jim Miller and his agent Joe Linta, and former Northwestern and San Diego Chargers defensive tackle Luis Castillo and his agent Mike McCartney just went up another small step. Miller was suspended four games at the end of the 1999 season for a substance violation. Miller stood up and acknowledged what he’d done (using a recovery supplement with a banned ingredient) and that was the end of it.

Castillo hurt his elbow early during Northwestern’s 2004 season. He started using androstenedione as part of his rehab and recovery, and tested positive at the 2005 NFL Combine. Rather than deny-deny-deny, Castillo acknowledged the misstep. The Chargers still made him their No. 1 pick (28th overall), in part because of the honesty.

Brady had a chance to do something similar and went the other way, even when other quarterbacks acknowledged there are problems with football inflations, and even some who tinker, as Brady had.

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The greatest mistake Lance Armstrong made was less the cheating and doping that he did to become a seven-time Tour de France winner, but rather failing to do what Castillo, Miller and others have done, and get out in front of the situation the right way. How much different would Armstrong’s personal legacy have been had he stood before microphones and cameras and said, “Yes, I did it, and we ALL did it (the vast majority of top cyclists in fact did do it). We felt we had to. And it’s time to put an end to it. Starting with me.”

Forget Armstrong’s arrogance or whatever. A lot of that was part of his cover-up. The reality is that we as Americans are, first, pretty forgiving if you’re honest and say you’ll go straight. And we also have a strange, sometimes humorous soft spot for a lot of our bad boys. Jesse James? Butch Cassidy? Gaylord Perry? You get the point.

None of this absolves anyone of wrongdoing, or of lying or fact-fudging to cover something up. But Brady didn’t lie to a grand jury, and Robert Kraft didn’t undermine peace talks in the Middle East. And yes, the NFL has significant work to do on punishment guidelines, although I’m not sure what discipline committee would’ve worked out a punishment for under- or over-inflating, which Aaron Rodgers prefers. Best guess is that the league will indeed go through its rule book and assign a penalty for violating those rules, just as it does for on-field misdeeds. 

Did Patriots owner Robert Kraft crush Bears' hope for Tom Brady?

Did Patriots owner Robert Kraft crush Bears' hope for Tom Brady?

The Bears are one of the first teams mentioned when speculation about where New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady could play in 2020. The Bears are the most quarterback-needy club that also has a chance to make a Super Bowl run with a player like Brady under center, so it's logical to assume the soon-to-be free agent will at least entertain the idea of playing home games at Soldier Field next year.

Much of what happens with Brady will come down to how the Patriots view the 42-year-old (he'll be 43 at the start of next season). If all things are equal, and New England makes him a fair offer to come back, it's likely Brady would return to the only franchise he's ever played for. And if owner Robert Kraft's recent comments are sincere, it's more than likely that he will.

RELATED: Top 30 free agents of the 2020 NFL offseason

Kraft, who was in New York City on Tuesday, was asked by TMZ reporters whether the Patriots will re-sign Brady this offseason. His response? 

"We plan to," Kraft said.

Well, there you have it, right? If the Patriots plan to re-sign Brady, then the Patriots are going to re-sign Brady; assuming, of course, you believe what Kraft is saying in January before New England's decision-makers have had enough time to assess their quarterback situation with, and maybe without, No. 12 under center.

Brady is coming off of one of his worst seasons as a pro, which is saying something considering he's been playing for two decades. His completion percentage was the lowest it's been in six years, his yardage total was the second-lowest in the last 10 years, and his 24 touchdown passes were the fewest he's thrown in a season since 2006. 

It's natural to wonder whether Father Time has finally caught up to him. Maybe, however, his down year was a result of lacking talent at wide receiver and tight end. Regardless of the reason, his 2019 campaign has called into question where he'll be in 2020.

But there are those three words Kraft said — 'we plan to' — that can't be ignored. At the very least, Bears fans can't get their hopes up. The Patriots tend to get what they want, and if they want Brady back in 2020, they'll have him.

Bears showing strong interest in Dayton TE Adam Trautman

Bears showing strong interest in Dayton TE Adam Trautman

Add Dayton tight end Adam Trautman  to the growing list of tight ends the Bears have met with at the 2020 Senior Bowl.

After confirming Purdue's Brycen Hopkins and Vanderbilt's Jared Pinkney spent time with Bears scouts (in the case of Pinkney, nearly 35 minutes), Trautman told's Chase Goodbread that Chicago's scouts have expressed a strong interest in his skill set.

"They're interested in me," Trautman said of the Bears. "They tell me they like what they see."

RELATED: Top 30 free agents of 2020 NFL offseason

Trautman had one of the best lines of the week when he said he prefers driving opposing defenders into the ground against their will over scoring touchdowns, and at a well-built 6-foot-5, 251 pounds, he has the perfect physical makeup to project as a guy who will do that on the next level. He needs development in that area of his game (run blocker), but his 'want-to' is half the battle.

Trautman wasn't the best tight end this week, but he was far from the worst. He's been consistent, and for a team like the Bears who are searching for a tight end who can be relied on as a second-level target for whoever is playing quarterback in Matt Nagy's offense, Trautman's consistency will be viewed as a plus.

Trautman had 916 yards and 14 touchdowns for Dayton in 2019. Scouts wanted to see whether he could handle the jump in competition at the Senior Bowl, and he's answered that question with a resounding yes.

He projects as a Day 3 pick with upside to develop into a starting quality tight end.