FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady wants to call Commissioner Roger Goodell as a witness in the appeal of the four-game suspension he was handed for “Deflategate.”
The NFL players union said in its appeal of the penalties that Goodell can’t hear the appeal because one of the issues is his credibility. The union also said in the letter released Friday it will call league vice president Troy Vincent, who handed down the punishment.
The Super Bowl MVP was suspended for four games and the Patriots were fined $1 million and docked a pair of draft picks for using illegally inflated footballs in the AFC championship game.
The appeal also complains that the evidence collected in the Wells report doesn’t support such a harsh penalty.
The union lawyers say that the suspension is invalid because only Goodell can punish players for conduct detrimental to the league. The penalties were handed down by Vincent, NFL’s executive vice president of football operations.
Brady appealed the decision on Thursday, and later in the evening Goodell announced that he would hear the appeal personally. Although the collective bargaining agreement gives him the right to do that, the appeal letter claimed Goodell cannot remain impartial because he will called as a witness.
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Writing to Vincent, the union said it intends “to call both you and Commissioner Goodell as essential witnesses in the proceeding.” And it told Vincent “your personal involvement in the game-day events surrounding this matter render you inherently biased in any disciplinary determination.”
The union asked Goodell to appoint a neutral arbiter and threatened to go outside the league’s system of appeals if he does not.
“If the Commissioner does not appoint such a neutral arbitrator, the NFLPA and Mr. Brady will seek recusal and pursue all available relief to obtain an arbitrator who is not evidently partial,” it said.
The team has not said if it will appeal its penalties, which include losing a first-round draft pick next year and a fourth-rounder in 2017. The deadline to appeal is May 21.
Wells concluded that Brady was “at least generally aware” of plans by two team employees to prepare balls to his liking, below the league-mandated minimum. The NFL requires a range of 12.5-13.5 pounds per square inch. Footballs with less pressure can be easier to grip and catch and some quarterbacks prefer those with less air.
The union’s appeal letter said the Wells report contained “insufficient evidence to find that Mr. Brady committed any violation of NFL rules.” A day earlier, the Patriots issued a point-by-point rebuttal of the league investigation.
Patriots attorney Daniel Goldberg, who represented the team during the investigation, wrote in the 20,000-word document that those conclusions are “at best, incomplete, incorrect and lack context.”
The team’s rebuttal presented its own science to explain the loss of pressure in a more innocuous way. And it claimed that a ballboy’s reference to himself as “The Deflator” was just a reference to losing weight.
It also says increased communication between Brady and the ballboys after the scandal broke were just normal expressions of concern, rather than evidence of the quarterback’s guilt.
AP sports writers Howard Ulman and Rob Maaddi contributed to this report.
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