Patriots owner Robert Kraft hit out at the NFL after Monday brought confirmation of their penalties for letting the air out of footballs before the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts in January.
Quarterback Tom Brady was banned for four games, the franchise lost their first round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth rounder in 2017, and they were levied with a $1m fine (??640,000).
The Super Bowl champions now face having to start back-up quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in their first four games, with Brady not coming back until after their week five bye – ironically, his first opponent would be the Colts.
Brady’s lack of cooperation with the investigation that led to the Wells Report came in for particular criticism when the sanctions were handed down, although his agent Don Yee said an appeal would be launched by the end of the week.
And Kraft offered his support to the 37-year-old in a statement that left open their right to appeal the remaining penalties – a U-turn from his previous stance – because of their severity.
Kraft’s statement read: “Despite our conviction that there was no tampering with footballs, it was our intention to accept any discipline levied by the league.
“Today’s punishment, however, far exceeded any reasonable expectation. It was based completely on circumstantial rather than hard or conclusive evidence.
“We are humbled by the support the??New England Patriots??have received from our fans throughout the world. We recognise our fans’ concerns regarding the NFL’s penalties and share in their disappointment in how this one-sided investigation was handled, as well as the dismissal of the scientific evidence supported by the Ideal Gas Law in the final report.
“Tom Brady??has our unconditional support. Our belief in him has not wavered.”
Yee was similarly scathing in his disregard for the punishment handed down to his client.
He said:??”The NFL has a well-documented history of making poor disciplinary decisions that often are overturned when truly independent and neutral judges or arbitrators preside.
“Sadly, today’s decision diminishes the NFL as it tells its fans, players and coaches that the games on the field don’t count as much as the games played on Park Avenue.”