By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Throughout the years-long soap opera known as "DeflateGate," many observers openly wondered, "If Tom Brady really didn't do anything wrong, then why would Roger Goodell and the NFL make such a big deal about it?"
The answer was painfully simple: Deflated footballs had nothing to do with domestic violence. Deflated footballs had nothing to do with DUIs or gun possession or drugs. Deflated footballs had nothing to do with court dates or arrests. And deflated footballs have nothing to do with players suffering traumatic brain injuries.
Everyone with even a basic understanding of the sport knows that a fraction of a PSI in a football does not have any impact whatsoever on the game. And so, by going after a superstar like Brady, Goodell managed to control how the NFL appeared in the national media for a very long time. It was just what he wanted.
But when it comes to a real issue, something that is actually damning for the NFL? Roger would like to get that out of the news as fast as possible.
The commissioner confirmed this to be the case on Tuesday afternoon, when he spoke at the league meeting in Chicago and was asked about Gisele Bundchen's claim that Brady suffered a concussion last year and has suffered them regularly throughout his career.
Goodell's answer was essentially him saying nothing to see here.
"We do not have any records that indicate that Tom suffered any kind of concussion or head injury," Goodell said.
So, that's that. No millions of dollars to spend on an "independent investigator" to pry into the personal cell phone and email communications from Brady. No months' worth of time spent interviewing dozens of people to get to the bottom of the story. No 200-page report on the results of the investigation.
There's no suspension or punishment handed out, which ensures there is no long appeals process, which ensures the story cannot live for up to two years in the news cycle.
No record. So no concussion. End of story.
In a terrifically ironic twist, Goodell cites the statement from Brady's agent -- Don Yee -- as evidence to support the lack of concussion for Brady.
"You also saw the statement that his agent made, that he hasn't been diagnosed with a concussion or wasn't last season," Goodell said Tuesday.
That's the same Don Yee who came out in the middle of DeflateGate and unapologetically ripped the league for its deceitfulness and lack of integrity in releasing the famed Wells report.
"I don't feel it was truly independent," Yee said in May 2015. "They're a fine law firm; they were just hired to do a job. But do I believe it was truly independent? I don't."
Goodell obviously disputed Yee's interpretation of events that time. This time? Yee's word is bond.
The other fascinating contrast is in Goodell's consideration of the source of the claim.
In the case of DeflateGate, the source was a Colts equipment manager named Sean Sullivan. The basis of his suspicions did not make any logical sense. Yet that lone accusation from a competing team's equipment manager was enough to launch a full-fledged takedown of Brady and the Patriots.
In the case of Brady's concussions, the source was Brady's wife. Presumably, Brady's wife is closer to him and knows more about him than the Colts equipment manager knows -- at least in the sense that Brady and his wife have met and conversed a number of times in their lives, whereas Brady and a man named Sean Sullivan are likely strangers.
Now, of course, Bundchen is many things, but she is not a practicing physician. Her public statement that her husband suffered a concussion last year does not necessarily mean that her husband did indeed suffer a concussion last year. But given the high profile of Brady, and given the league's insistence that it takes brain injures very seriously, would you not think that such a situation might warrant some further examination? Maybe invite the Brady-Bundchen clan to Park Avenue and talk things out, see what happened, and maybe make some public statements to increase awareness and safety among young football players who might idolize Brady?
If your answer to that is no, then that's fine. But answer this: If Bundchen had said three years ago in an interview that her husband likes to take air out of footballs before playing in games, don't you think the NFL might be a little bit more interested in talking to her?
Do you think Goodell would take Don Yee at his word after that?
Do you think Goodell would just ignore the situation and wait for it to blow away in the breeze?
Of course not. We know that to not be true.
So, hey, look, concussions in football create a complex dilemma for Godell and the NFL, and it's not one that's easy to solve. It's also not one that they've handled particularly well throughout their history and in the present day.
But if you're of the belief that Goodell's dogged pursuit of Brady in "DeflateGate" was inspired by an effort to distract the public from the real issues plaguing the league? Well, you can add the treatment of this concussion situation to your quiver.
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