Once Roger Goodell upheld Tom Brady’s four-game Deflategate suspension, it became clear the matter would wind up in federal court. And now that it has, the quarterback’s testimony from his appeal has become public. In the testimony, filed by the NFL Players Association in a Manhattan federal court yesterday, Brady denied under oath that he had anything to do with the tampering of balls before last season’s AFC title game. The full document is 457 pages long, but here are five key passages.
Brady has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and in the transcript, he says that he didn’t even think about inflation levels when selecting game balls. Rather, he said his selections had to do with how the balls felt in his hands.
Q. Mr. Brady, I’m going to direct all of your testimony now to the issue of game balls and the incidents that are in the Wells report and all of that information. So let me first ask you, sir, and if you would just explain to the Commissioner more than me, who selects the footballs you use in the NFL games?
A. I do.
Q. Okay. And could you explain to the commissioner how do you decide what balls you would like to use, what factors, what process do you go through? If you could explain that to him.
A. Well, we have a, I would say in a very general situation, I have played a lot of games and we have different practices, I think, depending on — depending on the game. I think every quarterback likes the balls a certain way. And it really has to do with feel. It really has to do with comfort of gripping the ball. And I think we go through pretty, you know, extensive, rigorous process to take what may be a brand new football and try to break it in as quickly as possible so it can be available to be one of the game balls that you use on game day. So what typically happens is over the course of the week, in our situation, John would break the balls in.
COMMISSIONER GOODELL: John who?
THE WITNESS: Jastremski.
A. He would break in the last three or four years, I don’t know however long it’s been, he has been the one that I’ve dealt with that has been responsible for prepping them so that I can go in before the game and choose what I like and what we are going to play with on that particular day. And it’s a very feel-oriented process. It’s not, you know, I grab the ball. I feel with my hands. If I approve it, you know, I flip it to John, you know, to sort through however many he may make up for the game. There could be 30 balls. There could be 40 balls. I could select 12. I may select 24 depending if we think we are going to use additional balls. So I think it’s really a process for me to — I don’t even really think about. Is it important to me? Absolutely. I think the ball is important to every quarterback, which is why we are a part of that 2006 that we could break them in. But for me, it’s always been about how does the ball feel in my hand? Can I properly grip it and, you know, is this, what I feel is going to be the best to go out there and perform on the field with? So that’s basically it.
Q. Mr. Brady, did the issue of inflation level ever come up as a factor when you are choosing your balls or deciding upon the balls; is that something you think about at that time?
Q. Okay. Do you discuss the inflation level of the balls with Mr. Jastremski during the process when you are selecting the balls?
Brady emphasized how little thought he gave to PSI levels. Later he talked about how he wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between small changes in inflation levels because he doesn’t even squeeze the balls, but rather grips them loosely.
Q. You had made public statements in 2009, 2010 observing that some quarterbacks like the balls heavily inflated and other quarterbacks like the ball less inflated, hadn’t you?
A. I don’t remember exactly what I said. But I think that speaks to how I feel about the ball. I know, for example, John Hillebrand, the guy who previously broke in the balls, when he would condition a ball, sometimes he would put them in the sauna because he felt that would get the moisten in the ball.And when the ball would come to the sauna, the ball would probably be grossly overinflated. So however, you know, that experience of a really round football, until it came back to room temperature or whatever, ultimately I liked a ball that I could, you know, grip really loosely.And just to, I think the irony of everything is I don’t even squeeze a football. I think that’s something that’s really important to know is I grip the ball as loosely as possible. I don’t even squeeze the ball and I think that’s why it’s impossible for me to probably tell the difference between what 12.5 and 12.7 or 12.9 and 13 because I’m just gripping it like a golf club.I’ve tried to explain it. It’s like a golf club. You don’t squeeze the golf club. You handle it very gently. And that’s the same way I hold a football.
When upholding Brady’s suspension, the NFL made sure to emphasize that Brady had the cell phone he was using during the time period in question destroyed. At one point during his testimony, Brady explains that he didn’t hand over emails and texts as requested on the advice of his lawyers, but says he had nothing to hide and would have turned them over if his lawyers instructed him to.
Q. Now, let me turn now very briefly to the subject of electronic communications. Now, did there come a time after February 28th, so now we are well past the Super Bowl when you learned from your lawyers or your agents that there had been some request made for e-mails and texts that you might have?
Q. Okay. Now, we know that those were — nothing was turned over or the request was not responded to. How did you make the decision about that? What were you relying upon? How did you decide that?
A. Well, I was relying on their advice as my lawyers and what they basically said, There’s been a request, but we don’t think it’s proper for you to turn your phone over, so you don’t need to do that.
Q. If they had told you that you should turn over anything, would you have done so?
Q. Okay. At the time that the request was made, okay, you know what e-mails you did and what texts you did. Were there any e-mails or texts that you were worried about which showed you knew about deflating or anything like that? Was there anything you were trying to hide or conceal in your mind?
A. Absolutely not.
Q. Okay. Were there any such texts where you wrote to somebody talking about deflating footballs or other things in connection with the AFC Championship Game?
And here’s Brady talking about that cell phone — the one the NFL referenced when upholding the quarterback’s suspension. Brady explains it was standard procedure for him to destroy one phone when getting a new one:
Q. Okay. Now, have you had a practice, and tell me when it began, how long ago, of destroying or, I guess, asking somebody to destroy or get rid of your cell phones periodically?
A. I think for as long as I have had a cell phone.
Q. Okay. Since you have been in the NFL?
A. I don’t remember all the way back, but yeah, I’ve had a cell phone since being in the NFL.
Q. So whenever you first started having, I don’t know when cell phones started, but whenever you started having cell phones in the NFL, that has been your practice, correct?
Q. Okay. And did you do anything unusual here in terms of getting rid of your phone? And I will explain what I mean. In other words, did you hear about the Wells investigation or the request for this and then say, oh, let’s get rid of my cell phone or anything like that?
Q. Did you do anything unusual except your normal practice, when you are done with a cell phone, to get rid of it and have it destroyed?
A. That’s what I do.
COMMISSIONER GOODELL: Just, Jeff, can I ask a question? How often do you normally dispose of your phone? When you say “get rid of,” does it run out of time?
THE WITNESS: Well, if it — a new version may come out of a particular phone, if I break the phone, I’ve stepped on the screen a few times, it just fell out of my bag at my locker, I’m not seeing it, I stepped on it, I think three or four times, sometimes the touch panel breaks.
COMMISSIONER GOODELL: But it’s not a very regular practice, irrespective of you breaking it, to just get rid of it or when a new version comes out? I’m trying to understand that, or is it every month you change it just for security reasons?
THE WITNESS: No, I don’t do that.
COMMISSIONER GOODELL: Does your number change when that happens?
THE WITNESS: No. The number would stay the same.
COMMISSIONER GOODELL: Okay.
Q. And, in fact—
THE WITNESS: The only time I changed it was after the report came out and there was — a lot of people started guessing what my phone number was and then I changed my number.
Also in the released document is the testimony of Ted Wells, the investigator who prepared the NFL report. The testimony reveals he really held it against Brady that he didn’t turn over those emails and texts:
Q. You rejected the testimony of Mr. Brady that he knew nothing about the ball deflation in the AFC Championship Game, right? You rejected that?
A. I did reject it based on my assessment of his credibility and his refusal or decision not to give me what I requested in terms of responsive documents. And that decision, so we can all be clear and I will say it to Mr. Brady, in my almost 40 years of practice, I think that was one of the most ill-advised decisions I have ever seen because it hurt how I viewed his credibility.
Q. If he had given you that, you would have accepted his statement?
A. I do not know. I can’t go back in a time machine, but I will say this. It hurt my assessment of his credibility for him to begin his interview by telling me he declined to give me the documents.
And I want to say this. At that time, neither his lawyer nor Mr. Brady gave me any reason other than to say, “We respectfully.” They were respectful. They said, “We respectfully decline.” There wasn’t anything about the Union or it wasn’t anything, This was what my lawyer told me and I am going to follow my lawyer’s advice.
I was given no explanation other than, “We respectfully decline.” And I did, I walked Mr. Brady through this request in front of his agents and lawyers. So I understood that he understood what I was asking for and they were declining.
That said, Wells added that “I did not tell Mr. Brady at any time that he would be subject to punishment for not giving — not turning over the documents. I did not say anything like that.”