Tom Brady told equipment staff to hand copy of game ball rules to officials
While he may have been hesitant to admit it six months ago, there is little doubt now that Tom Brady likes his game balls to be inflated to the lower end of the *legal* limit. In fact, the four-time Super Bowl winner reportedly likes his equipment managers to inform game officials of that before each game.
One of the reasons NFL commissioner Roger Goodell cited on Tuesday for upholding Brady’s four-game suspension was that Brady makes an effort to have his game balls inflated as close to 12.5 psi as possible. Before the AFC Championship Game, the veteran quarterback instructed equipment staffer Jim McNally to hand head referee Walt Anderson a copy of the rules for game ball inflation and request that the balls be set to 12.5 psi.
Second, at least by the time of the AFC Championship Game, the inflation level of the footballs was a matter of particular interest to Mr. Brady. He told the Patriots’ equipment staff that he wanted the footballs inflated at the lowest permissible level; he reviewed a highlighted copy of the provision of the Playing Rules that addressed inflation of footballs; and he instructed the equipment staff to present a copy of the rule to the game officials. On the day of the AFC Championship Game, Mr. McNally told referee Walt Anderson that Mr. Brady wanted the balls inflated to a pressure of 12.5 psi. He told the investigators that “Tom … always has me pass a message to the Official’s [sic] that he likes the balls at the minimum permissible PSI of 12.5. … I know this is what Tom wants, and I have been personally told by him of the ball weight preference.”
Does Brady being particular about the inflation level of game balls support the notion that he had a hand in cheating? If you like to travel 60 mph in a 65-mph zone and I prefer to drive 65 mph, does that mean I’m more likely to break the law?
We learned from some of these text messages that officials may have inflated balls to 16 psi — well above the maximum allowable limit of 13.5 psi — before a game last season. Brady was supposedly very unhappy about it, which could be why he instructed equipment managers to remind officials that he likes the balls at 12.5 psi.
Does that mean an equipment manager didn’t tamper with the balls after they were checked? No, but the fact that Brady has a strong preference for balls inflated at the lower level of the spectrum should not be used as evidence against him, and it likely won’t fly in federal court.
The biggest issue for Brady is that he destroyed a cell phone and had a lame excuse for doing so. Now, Brady’s legal team will argue that his destroyed cell phone is irrelevant, as the NFL was not entitled to go through it. We’ll see how that goes for No. 12.