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NFL QB Tom Brady Will Sit Out 4 Games For Deflated Balls Scandal

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

When the NFL season starts this fall, the reigning champions will be without their star quarterback. Tom Brady of the Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots has been suspended for the first four games of the upcoming regular season for his part in what's become known as deflategate. That's the controversy over underinflated footballs in January's AFC championship game. An investigation found Brady was, quote, "generally aware that Patriots employees were letting air out of game balls," something that might've given the quarterback an unfair advantage. NPR's Tom Goldman is on the line with us to follow up on this story. Good morning.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Well, let's review the punishment handed down by the NFL. It does seem like a tough punishment.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, well, there's Brady suspension, the four games without pay, although he can take part in training camp and preseason activities, including preseason games. Then the Patriots as a team got dinged too - a million dollar fine, reportedly the largest for a team in NFL history, and then the team has to give up two draft picks over the next two years, including a first-round pick in the 2016 draft.

MONTAGNE: And what else have you heard in reaction to this news?

GOLDMAN: You know, the Patriots are a polarizing team, Renee. Fans love them or hate them, and the reactions are following along those lines. In the hater camp, people are saying this proves what's been said for years - the Patriots are cheaters. On the other side, Pats fans in Boston are not happy. This is Jordan Howley.

JORDAN HOWLEY: I think it's shocking that Tom Brady is getting four games while Ray Rice, who beat his wife, got two games. I think that's a little ridiculous. I think Goodell has it backwards.

GOLDMAN: Now, Mr. Howley is of course talking about the initial two-game suspension NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gave to Ray Rice last year after that videotape of Rice dragging his fiancee unconscious out of an elevator first emerged.

MONTAGNE: Now, Tom Brady, through his agent, said he will appeal so how does that process work?

GOLDMAN: Well, he has to file within the next couple of days. The NFL's collective bargaining agreement with players says the man who okayed the punishment, Commissioner Goodell, also hears the appeal. Now, Brady's agent, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and others who want Brady to get a fair hearing hope Goodell outsources the job, as he's allowed to do. If his appeal fails, Renee, I should point out, and he serves the four-game suspension, he would return to face - wait for it - the Indianapolis Colts. Now, if I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd say someone is pulling some strings, but I'm not. So let's move on.

MONTAGNE: Well, and then will there be a (laughter) moving on moment after this - whatever comes of this particular punishment?

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Are we nearing the end of deflategate? Sadly no. Certainly if Brady's appeal fails, it'll remain a bizarre national obsession, at least through the first four games of next season. But maybe instead of focusing on the scandal, we should turn the conversation to changing the rule behind the scandal that says all footballs have to be inflated in a range from 12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch. For nearly a decade, the NFL has allowed both teams in a game to supply their own footballs for offense. They can condition them how they want. They can rub dirt on them and so on, but all of them have to be inflated in that range. Why not change that and let each team inflate the footballs to their quarterback's heart's content? As long as both teams can do it, neither has an advantage over the other, so where's the cheating?

MONTAGNE: OK. Well, Tom, thanks very much.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.