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May 14, 2015

Pats lawyer: 'Deflator' texts about weight loss, not balls

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — A Patriots lawyer says the "deflator" nickname used by a ballboy and cited in the NFL's decision to suspend quarterback Tom Brady was about weight loss, not footballs.

Team attorney Daniel Goldberg said Thursday the two Patriots employees used the term jokingly to refer to locker room attendant Jim McNally, who was trying to lose weight.

In a 20,000-word rebuttal to the league's findings, Goldberg disputes the conclusions of the investigator hired by the NFL on matters of science, logic and law.

Goldberg represented the team and was present during all of interviews of team personnel. Patriots spokesman Stacey James confirmed that the site was genuine and "approved/supported by the team."

The rebuttal was published ahead of a deadline for Brady to appeal a four-game suspension.

Goldberg's response claims the league's conclusions are "at best, incomplete, incorrect and lack context."

It denied a link between Brady and the two equipment staffers, and it rejected Wells' claims that the team was not cooperative in the investigation. Wells said the team refused to make McNally available for a follow-up interview; Goldberg said the league should have asked all of its questions the first time.

Among the claims in the response were that Wells ignored an innocuous scientific explanation — backed by a letter from a Nobel Prize Laureate — for the loss of air pressure in the footballs used in the AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.

The rebuttal also includes claims of other incidents of ball-tampering that were not dealt with as harshly. And it 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.

Brady's agent, Don Yee, said the three-time Super Bowl MVP would appeal the suspension issued on Monday for his part in the deflation of footballs below the league-mandated minimum. He had until 5 p.m. on Thursday to do so.

The Patriots have not said if they'll appeal their penalty by a May 21 deadline — a $1 million fine and the loss of a first-round draft pick next year and a fourth-rounder in 2017.

The Wells report issued on April 29 found that Brady "was at least generally aware" of plans by the two team employees to deflate the footballs below the league minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch. It also said Brady and the team were not fully cooperative.

The appeal would be heard by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or a person he designates. The league will go against an experienced foe in labor lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, who has won other appeals against the league and is helping Brady.

If the suspension is upheld, Brady would miss the first four games of the regular season and be eligible to return against the Colts on Oct. 18.