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Michael McCann: Patriots Created Baseline For Potential Lawsuit

BOSTON (CBS) -- The New England Patriots fired back at the NFL and the Wells Report on Thursday, releasing a nearly 20,000-word report of their own to put Wells' findings in context.

"The conclusions of the Wells Report are, at best, incomplete, incorrect and lack context," it read.

Attorney Michael McCann, who is also a legal analyst at Sports Illustrated and director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at UNH, will actually be teaching a course on "Deflategate" this fall, and joined WBZ-TV's Dan Roche on Thursday to discuss what the document does for the Patriots.

"I think they want to create a rebuttal that is persuasive, that provides comments by those who know a lot about science and physics, as a way of debunking the theory they deflated footballs. That's the Patriots' main focus with this document --  to undermine the NFL's basis for the argument that the team should be punished for not complying with the rule of ball inflation," he said. "They also wanted, to the extent possible, to clear Tom Brady. Knowing that Brady  is going to go on an appeal, this will be a document Brady likely uses as well."

Brady was hit with a four-game suspension based on Wells' findings, that said he was likely generally aware that Patriots employees more likely than not deflated footballs ahead of the AFC Championship Game.

While winning a lawsuit against the NFL would be a monumental task for the Patriots, McCann said Thursday's document lays the groundwork for the road ahead.

"It's also about creating a baseline for a potential lawsuit; that if the NFL doesn't revise the punishment in a way the Patriots find acceptable, they could file a lawsuit or an antitrust claim against the league and other owners. They could file a lawsuit based on defamation," said McCann. "There are a number of potential legal claims, but none of them would likely work because the Patriots, by being a franchise in an association of teams, have contractually assented away some of their rights to sue. But it's possible that the document could be used as a basis for a lawsuit as well."

The Patriots were fined $1 million and lost a first-round and fourth-round pick in upcoming drafts. While it might be much tougher for the Patriots to get any of this dropped, seeing how they're basically asking Goodell to reconsider, they certainly have an argument that the punishment is excessive compared to what other team's have received for similar tampering infractions.

"I think the Patriots have made a pretty valid argument that this punishment is excessive, arbitrary, and there is no rhyme or reason," he said, noting the Atlanta Falcons lost just a fifth-round pick last month for pumping crowd noise into their stadium.

So what should we expect from all of this? McCann said once Brady files his appeal, which he did Thursday afternoon, it could be a lengthy process, but one that ultimately gets the quarterback's suspension reduced.

"My gut feeling is that Tom Brady's suspension is at least reduced. I think at most it will be a two game suspension, and I think there is a pretty good chance, depending on who Goodell picks to preside over the hearing, that the punishment is thrown out," he said. "The presiding officer could tell Goodell that really, the only appropriate sanction here is a fine, much like Brett Favre got when he wasn't cooperative with his cell phone for inappropriate with text messages.

"How do you go from Favre getting a $50,000 fine to Tom Brady getting a four-game suspension? That's a huge jump. I think we'll at least see the suspension reduced," he said.

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