The NFL handed down its punishment to the New England Patriots’ stemming from the deflated-football scandal that has been lingering since the close of the 2014 season. The discipline comes after Ted Wells completed his investigation into the alleged cheating, which involved footballs intentionally underinflated by the Patriots last season, with the report being made public last Wednesday.

According to multiple media reports, including ESPN’s Adam Schefter, and a press release distributed by the league, the Patriots will lose their 2016 first-round draft pick, their 2017 fourth-round draft pick, the team will be fined $1 million and quarterback Tom Brady will be suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season for his involvement in deflating the footballs.

The Wells Report said that it was “more probable than not” that Brady not only had knowledge of the footballs being illegally deflated but that it was done by locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski at Brady’s request. The game in question was the AFC Championship game between the Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts, wherein there were discrepancies in the game balls’ air pressures.

Though all of the NFL’s punishments will affect the Patriots over the next two years, the most immediate is the suspension of Brady. Should the four-game suspension stand after appeal, Brady will miss the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which is set for the night of Thursday, September 10. He will also miss a road game against the Buffalo Bills, a home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars and a road game against the Dallas Cowboys. He will be eligible to return, ironically enough, in Week 6, when the Patriots travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts on Sunday Night Football.

The New York Daily News‘ Gary Myers was the first to report last week that Brady’s and the Patriots’ punishment would come this week; he expected a four-game ban for Brady that could be reduced to two games following appeal, while sources closer to the Patriots were concerned that six or even eight games could have been on the table.

The punishment was handed down by NFL Executive President Troy Vincent. His letter to Brady, via Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post, is as follows:

“With respect to your particular involvement, the report established that there is substantial and credible evidence to conclude you were at least generally aware of the actions of the Patriots’ employees involved in the deflation of the footballs and that it was unlikely that their actions were done without your knowledge. Moreover, the report documents your failure to cooperate fully and candidly with the investigation, including by refusing to produce any relevant electronic evidence (emails, texts, etc.), despite being offered extraordinary safeguards by the investigators to protect unrelated personal information, and by providing testimony that the report concludes was not plausible and contradicted by other evidence.

“Your actions as set forth in the report clearly constitute conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the game of professional football. The integrity of the game is of paramount importance to everyone in our league, and requires unshakable commitment to fairness and compliance with the playing rules. Each player, no matter how accomplished and otherwise respected, has an obligation to comply with the rules and must be held accountable for his actions when those rules are violated and the public’s confidence in the game is called into question.”

Vincent also noted that

“In accepting the findings of the report, we note that the report identified no evidence of wrongdoing or knowledge of wrongdoing on the part of any member of the coaching staff, including Head Coach Bill Belichick, or by any Patriots’ staff member other than Mr. Jastremski and Mr. McNally, including head equipment manager Dave Schoenfeld. Similarly, the Wells report is clear that Patriots ownership and executives did not participate in any way in the misconduct, or have knowledge of the misconduct. Nonetheless, it remains a fundamental principle that the club is responsible for the actions of club employees.”

Brady’s next step is to appeal the suspension, which could potentially bring to light many different legal issues around the NFL

Photo: USA Today Sports