The NFLPA has made its initial filing in a New York federal court in the case involving Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension. Filed with the main document was the lengthy transcript of the 10-hour appeal hearing.
PFT has obtained a copy of the transcript, and the resident lawyer has been assigned the responsibility of reading and digesting it. (Hooray?)
The process began with the testimony from the first witness called by NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler: Tom Brady.
In response to questions from Kessler, Brady said all the things that would be expected. He didn’t know about any effort to deflate footballs, he didn’t direct anyone to do it, and he wasn’t even aware of the limits for air pressure inside footballs until after the 2014 game against the Jets, when Brady became “very pissed off” because the balls used in that game were “very hard.”
It turned out that the balls somehow had been inflated to 16 PSI. This prompted Brady to look up the relevant rule. He said that he then learned for the first time about the 12.5 to 13.5 PSI range, and he told Patriots equipment manager Dave Schoenfeld to “make sure when the referees get the balls, give them this sheet of paper that highlighted” the minimum and the maximum. Brady specifically said at that time that the balls should be inflated to 12.5 PSI.
On cross-examination, Lorin Reisner asked Brady how he arrived at 12.5 PSI as his preferred inflation.
“We basically just picked a number at that point, I guess, historically, we had always set the pressure at — before John Jastremski took over, it had been historically set at, like, 12.7 or 12.8,” Brady said. “That’s what I learned after the fact. And I think based on the Jets game, I said why don’t we just set them at 12.5, bring this [copy of the rule] to the ref and I didn’t think about it after that.”
Then Reisner asked again why Brady would pick 12.5 PSI.
“Ball pressure has been so inconsequential, I hadn’t even thought about that,” Brady said. “I think at the end of the day, the only time I thought about it was after the Jet game and then after this was brought up, after the [AFC] championship game. It’s never something that has been on my radar, registered. I never said ‘psi.’ I don’t think I even know what that meant until after the [AFC] championship game. It was something that never crossed my mind.”
And then Reisner asked again why Brady picked 12.5 PSI.
“We looked in the rule book,” Brady said.
And then, one more time, Reisner asked Brady why he picked 12.5 PSI.
“I don’t know exactly how we did it,” Brady said. “I don’t remember how we came to that other than the experience I had in the Jet game when they were grossly overinflated and then they showed me the rule book or the copy of the page in the rule book. And I said, why don’t we just set them here, 12.5, and not think about it ever again.”
Reisner then posed the obvious question that Brady apparently didn’t want to directly answer: “Did you pick 12.5 because it was toward the lower end or the lower end of the permissible range?
“I’m not sure why I picked it in particular,” Brady said, “other than having to put some — I think John [Jastremski] said he did either 12.5 or 12.6. You know, we had to pick some number that we were ultimately going to set them to, so I said why don’t we just set them all to 12.5 and that was it.”
Then came the direct point that Brady’s prior answers were trying to avoid: “Is it fair to say that you prefer the footballs inflated to a pressure level at the low end of the range?”
“Like I said, I never have thought about the ball, the air pressure in a football,” Brady said. “The only time I have ever thought about the air pressure in a football was after the Jets game when they were at the level of 16.
“So whenever I went to pick the game balls, I never once in 15 years ever asked what the ball pressure was set at until after the Jet game. So whether it’s 12.5 or 12.6 or 12.7 or 12.8 or 12.9 or 13, all the way up to the Colts game, I still think it’s inconsequential to what the actual feel of a grip of a football would be.
“So the fact that there could be a ball that’s set at 12.5 that I would disapprove of, there could be a ball at 13 that I could approve of. It all is depending on how the ball feels in my hand on that particular day.”
Reisner kept at it, trying to get Brady to admit he wanted as little air as possible in the balls, with the implication being that he’d take even less than the minimum, if he could get it.
“And the request that 12.5 was your preferred pressure level was because you like the balls inflated at the low end of the permissible range; is that fair?” Lorin Reisner asked.
“I’m not sure what you’re asking,” Brady said.
“You didn’t just pick 12.5 randomly, correct?”
“No, we picked 12.5 because that was — I don’t know why we picked 12.5. We could have picked 12.6. I don’t even remember it being part of the conversation; I really don’t. I don’t remember exactly how we set it other than I had this experience at the Jet game where the balls were at 16.
“I didn’t like that. That’s the first time I ever complained. So when I say 12 and a half and 13 and a half, I made the determination let’s just set them at 12 and a half.”
“And that wasn’t chosen randomly,” Reisner later asked, “but it was chosen because you preferred that inflation level, fair?”
“I never thought about the inflation level, Lorin” Brady said. “I never in the history of my career, I never thought about the inflation level of a ball.”
Brady later explained that none of it matters; “I think the irony of everything is I don’t even squeeze a football,” he said.
“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 and 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 handle a football.”
Brady never directly admitted what his decision to go with 12.5 PSI necessarily conveys — that he preferred the footballs to be inflated at 12.5 PSI because that was the lowest permissible amount. That kind of evasiveness can make people think he’s wary of that next logical step is, if he likes 12.5 PSI, he possibly loves 12.3 or 12.0 or 11.5.
The truth could be that Brady simply allowed him competitive nature take over during the questioning, which caused him to fight as hard as he could to avoid conceding a point that could be used against him. What Brady didn’t realize is that the effort to fight the point he should have just conceded does even more potential damage.
When I practiced law (and while reading through the 456-page transcript I’m more and more grateful I no longer do), I always told my witnesses to concede whatever they had to concede, without resistance. Resistance always comes off worse than just agreeing with the undeniable point the lawyer is trying to make, and moving on.