ESPN’s Hasselbeck weighs in on ‘Deflategate’ report, fair discipline

May 7, 2015, 6:30 PM | Updated: May 8, 2015, 11:08 am
Tom Brady faces potential league discipline for his involvement in the Patriots’ “Defla...
Tom Brady faces potential league discipline for his involvement in the Patriots' "Deflategate" scandal. (AP)
(AP)
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What’s a fair punishment for Tom Brady?

That’s the biggest question after an investigation into the Patriots’ “Deflategate” scandal revealed that the team likely underinflated game balls and that their quarterback knew that it happened.

NFL finds Patriots employees probably deflated balls

So how should the league discipline Brady? ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Tim Hasselbeck said a fair punishment would be between one and four games, sharing that opinion Thursday when he joined “Brock and Salk” on 710 ESPN Seattle.

The report by attorney Ted Wells, which was released Wednesday, stated that Brady “was at least generally aware” that Patriots footballs used in January’s AFC Championship Game were intentionally inflated by team employees below 12.5 pounds per square inch, which is the league-mandated minimum.

Since that accusation was first made, a popular notion in defense of Brady and the Patriots has been that he’s not alone among NFL quarterbacks in having game balls manipulated to his liking. But Hasselbeck said that in his experience – he made several stops during his NFL career and is the brother of former Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck – that’s not the case.

“I’ve never been a part of a situation – and I certainly don’t know of any – where guys were asking the equipment guys who handle the footballs to alter them once the game officials evaluated them,” he said. “That, to me, is the thing that’s the biggest difference when people start talking about, ‘Well, everyone’s doing this stuff.’ That’s just not true.”

Another defense has been that underinflating footballs doesn’t necessarily give a team a competitive advantage. Hasselbeck said that’s debatable, noting that while he preferred to throw balls that had less air in them, other quarterbacks liked them overinflated. But in his view, that question is immaterial because advantage or not, a rule was broken.

“As everyone tries to figure out did it help them or did it not really help them, that’s really not the issue,” he said. “The issue is, did you intentionally break a rule? That’s the issue. The reason that’s the issue is because the NFL has already determined that it’s a competitive advantage and their opinion is the one that matters. The league already has it in the rulebook a certain way.”

Hasselbeck noted that the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs has already set a precedent regarding discipline for competitive-advantage violations. A positive PED test results in a four-game suspension, even if the substance in question may not actually enhance a player’s performance.

“Ephedra is on the banned substance list for performance-enhancing drugs. Ephedra, just like you would find in Sudafed,” Hasselbeck said. “So you could actually fail a performance-enhancing drug test for the NFL by taking too much Sudafed. You can certainly debate whether or not that helps you be a better football player. I would be of the feeling that it really doesn’t make you that much better, but yet if you fail the drug test you’re still getting four games.

“What the benefit is or how much it actually helped you or how much of a competitive advantage isn’t what determines the punishment. The reality is you have a violation that by the NFL’s standard changes the balance in terms of competitive advantage. That’s been a four-game suspension. That’s what it’s been. So I think that if you look at it in that regard, I don’t know how you something where it’s not between a one- and four-game suspension.”

Hasselbeck said another factor the NFL might consider in determining discipline in this case is Brady’s clear unwillingness to cooperate in Wells’ investigation.

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ESPN’s Hasselbeck weighs in on ‘Deflategate’ report, fair discipline