Now that attorney Ted Wells has ruled that it “was more probable than not’’ that Tom Brady “was generally aware’’ of tampering by a pair of Patriots team staffers, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has a decision to make.
The league has handed down dozens of suspensions in its history, but none for offenses like Brady’s. The NFL rulebook sets the punishment for altering footballs at a fine “including but not limited to’’ $25,000, leaving room for harsher penalties. Given Goodell’s statements during Super Bowl week, it’s more likely he’ll consider this a violation of league integrity and punish it accordingly.
With Brady’s punishment still up in the air, here’s a look at some recent offenses and the penalties incurred. Note: This is not an apples-to-apples comparison to Brady’s supposed offense, but simply some context in the form of recent punishments handed down by Goodell.
The offense: The New England Patriots’ taping of the Jets’ signals in 2007.
The punishment: $500,000 fine for Bill Belichick, $250,000 for the team and loss of a first-round draft pick.
What Goodell said: “This episode represents a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid longstanding rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field.’’
The context: The New England Patriots were found to have taped the Jets’ signals during a game in direct violation of a league rule against doing so. The league had sent a memo to teams saying “videotaping of any type…is prohibited on the sidelines’’ in Sept. 2006.
The offense: Sexual assault allegations in 2010.
The punishment: Six games.
What Goodell said: “You are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in (the nightclub) that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans.’’
The context: In March 2010, it was revealed that Roethlisberger was the subject of an investigation into an alleged sexual assault at a Georgia nightclub. Roethlisberger would not be formally charged, but Goodell nevertheless laid down a harsh penalty. Two years later, he settled a lawsuit with a woman who alleged he raped her in 2008.
The offense: Accusations of paying out bonuses for injuring opposing players during the 2010 season, and an ensuing cover-up.
The punishment: One-year suspension for New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, indefinite ban for former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, eight-game suspension for GM Mickey Loomis, six-game suspension for assistant coach Joe Vitt, one-year suspension for linebacker Jon Vilma, eight-game suspension for defensive end Anthony Hargrove, four-game suspension for defensive end Will Smith, three-game suspension for linebacker Scott Fujita, $500,000 fine for the team and loss of first-round picks in 2012 and 2013.
What Goodell said: “It is our responsibility to protect player safety and the integrity of our game, and this type of conduct will not be tolerated. We have made significant progress in changing the culture with respect to player safety and we are not going to relent. We have more work to do and we will do it.’’
The context: The league found several Saints players were actively involved in a bounty program run by then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and that Payton was “aware of the allegations but did not make any inquires and failed to stop the program.’’ This was the largest single set of punishments laid down in league history. The players’ punishments were ultimately reduced on appeal.
The offense: Intoxication manslaughter, after his Cowboys teammate Jerry Brown died in a 2013 drunk driving crash with Brent behind the wheel.
The punishment: Ten-game suspension.
What Goodell said: “I met with Josh. We obviously had to go through a great deal of discussions with outside experts also, including representatives of MADD, and felt that where he was this was an appropriate way to bring him back into the league, but he still has to meet a very high standard and he understands that. He can’t afford to have any mistakes from here.’’
The context: Brent was arrested in Jan. 2013 after his car hit a curb and flipped at about 2:30 a.m., killing Brown. According to reports, he was traveling between 110 and 134 miles per hour before he crashed. He had a history of such offenses.
The punishment: One-year suspension.
What Cleveland GM Ray Farmer said: “It is evident that Josh needs to make some substantial strides to live up to the positive culture we are trying to build this football team upon. Our hope is that this suspension affords Josh the opportunity to gain some clarity in determining what he wants to accomplish moving forward and if he wants a career in the National Football League.’’
The context: The Browns wide-receiver tested positive for alcohol at the end of the 2014 regular season. While drinking alcohol is not generally against league rules, Brown was in Stage Three of the league’s substance abuse policy following repeated violations, making him subject to testing for alcohol for a minimum of two years. Gordon had been suspended two games in 2013 and for the season (later reduced to ten games under a new substance-abuse policy) in 2014.
The offense: Assault on now-wife Janay Rice.
What Goodell said: “We simply cannot tolerate conduct that endangers others or reflects negatively on our game,’’ and “I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will,’’ after the penalty was upped amid criticism.
The context: Rice was charged with assaulting his now-wife in an Atlantic City casino elevator in Feb. 2014, but was accepted into a pretrial intervention program which will keep him out of jail, pending completion. The first suspension came after the release of a video showing Rice dragging his then-fiancee out of the elevator, the latter after the release of a video showing him knocking her unconscious inside it. Goodell and the league were subject to a strong backlash following the initial suspension.
The offense: Charged with domestic violence assault in May 2014.
The punishment: Ten-game suspension.
What Goodell said: “The use of physical force under the circumstances present here, against a woman substantially smaller than you and in the presence of powerful, military-style assault weapons, constitutes a significant act of violence in violation of the Personal Conduct Policy.’’
The context: Hardy was convicted of assault in July 2014 but appealed, and charges were dismissed in February after the victim did not testify in court. Hardy played in the first game of the 2014 season but was deactivated the following week and agreed to be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list while his trial was ongoing. His suspension was handed down in April. An appeal is pending.
The offense: Child abuse.
What Goodell said: “We are prepared to put in place a program that can help you to succeed, but no program can succeed without your genuine and continuing engagement. You must commit yourself to your counseling and rehabilitative effort, properly care for your children, and have no further violations of law or league policy,’’ after the inital indefinite suspension.
The context: Peterson was indicted in September on charges he used a switch to punish his son, wounding him. He pleaded no contest to the charge and reached a plea agreement to avoid jail time, receiving as punishment a fine, probation and community service. He was reinstated in April, but could face suspension or banishment for a future conduct policy violation.
The Cleveland Browns
The offense: General manager sent text messages in-game to team sideline personnel.
The punishment: GM Ray Farmer fined four games, team fined $250,000
What NFL VP of Operations Troy Vincent said: “The use of a cell phone on multiple occasions during games in 2014 by Cleveland Browns General Manager Ray Farmer was a violation of NFL rules that prohibit certain uses of electronic devices during games.’’
The context: A report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in January revealed the NFL was investigating the Browns for a possible violation of the league’s rules on using electronic devices during games. League rules prohibit use of non-league issued electronic devices like cell phones, laptops or tablets in the coaches booths, on the sidelines, in the locker room or in “any other club-controlled area’’ beginning 90 minutes before kickoff. Investigators found Farmer violated these rules by texting from the press box, but did not release the content of his texts.
The Atlanta Falcons
The offense: Pumping fake crowd noise into the Georgia Dome.
The punishment: Loss of fifth-round draft pick in 2016, team fined $350,000, Falcons president Rich McKay out as NFL’s spokesperson for the competition committee.
What Falcons owner Arthur Blank said: “What took place was wrong and nowhere near the standards by which we run our business. Anytime there are actions that compromise the integrity of the NFL or threaten the culture of our franchise, as this issue did, they will be dealt with swiftly and strongly.’’
The context: Around the time of Super Bowl XLVI, reports emerged that the league was investigating whether the Atlanta Falcons piped in fake crowd noise during home games while the opposing team was huddling. Blank admitted the team did so in both 2013 and 2014. The Falcons went 6-9 at home in those seasons.
The Minnesota Vikings
The offense: Vikings sideline attendants heated game balls during a cold November game.
The punishment: League warned teams of the rule prohibiting such acts.
What NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino said: “Yeah, you can’t do anything with the footballs in terms of any artificial, whether you’re heating them up, whether it’s a regular game ball or kicking ball, you can’t do anything to the football.’’
The context: The Minnesota Vikings were caught on broadcast cameras using heaters to warm footballs in a game with a -7 degree wind chill.