SALEM, Mass. – Chants of “MVP” embraced Tom Brady. Boos rained on Jim Gray when he opened with a question about “the elephant in the room.” Then everybody held their breath.
But the air of suspense was promptly let out of the auditorium when Brady declined to respond to the NFL’s Wells report that implicated the New England Patriots quarterback in the deflategate scandal.
“I don’t have really any reaction,” Brady told Jim Gray at a sold-out Salem State University event Thursday night. “Our owner commented on it yesterday, and it’s only been 30 hours, so I haven’t had much time to digest it fully, but when I do, I’ll be sure to let you know how I feel about it. And everybody else.”
Sportscaster Gray pressed on to no avail. Brady said he needed to absorb the 234-page report on underinflated footballs and its conclusions before going public with his thoughts about it.
And when will that be, asked Gray. “Hopefully soon,” replied Brady.
“There’s still a process that’s going forth right now, and I’m involved in that process,” added Brady. “So whenever it happens, it happens, and I’ll certainly want to be very comfortable in how I feel about the statements that I make.”
One day after the NFL released the damning report, Brady arrived by helicopter on the campus 25 miles north of Boston for an event organized weeks ago as part of a guest speaker series.
His embattled status didn’t faze the crowd. It gave him a boisterous welcome, causing Brady to comment, “This is like a Patriots pep rally. Thank you guys for being here.”
Gray didn’t shrink from his inquisitor role. When Brady insisted he needed time before commenting on the Wells report, Gray humorously asked him if he was a slow reader.
That brought a chuckle from Brady, who responded that he’s accustomed to reading Xs and Os instead of investigative reports delving into the intrigue and science of underinflated footballs.
Brady made it clear, however, that the firestorm over deflategate did not detract from the joy of winning his fourth Super Bowl in February or tarnish the Patriots championship season.
“Absolutely not,” said the quarterback to loud applause.
Gray noted that Brady, the team’s golden boy, has been under searing criticism across the country since the report’s release, though Brady countered he has received unconditional support from friends, family and teammates.
The crowd roared.
Still to come is any penalties NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will impose on Brady and the Patriots for violation of the league’s football pressure standards before the Jan. 18 AFC title game with the Indianapolis Colts.
Thus far Goodell has indicated only that Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president of football operations, will look into that matter. Options include fines and suspensions.