As NFL commissioner Roger Goodell upheld Tom Brady’s four-game suspension Tuesday, the Carolina Panthers made a small cameo in the 20-page decision and could play an even greater role next month.
The Nov. 30 game between the Vikings and Panthers has its own paragraph on page 16 of Goodell’s decision, which was released Tuesday afternoon. In a ruling that showed Brady destructed potential evidence in the AFC Championship Game controversy known worldwide as Deflategate, Goodell writes that the incident involving the Patriots and its MVP quarterback is unlike a situation from the 31-13 Panthers loss in Minnesota.
The NFL has found that Patriots personnel deflated several New England game balls in the 45-7 win against the Indianapolis Colts that sent the Patriots back to the Super Bowl.
But in the Nov. 30 game in Minnesota, a Panthers ballboy was seen in the FOX broadcast putting a game ball up to a heater in a game that, at the time of kickoff, was played in single-digit temperature.
Even in cold games, the NFL prohibits ball attendants from doing anything artificial, such as heating them, to the game balls.
In an attempt to show how the Brady ruling differs from other NFL rulings or similar incidents, Goodell writes: “The conduct at issue here is also very different from the ball-warming incident in Minnesota last year, in which a Carolina Panthers ball attendant was observed warming a ball on the Vikings’ sideline; there was no evidence of any intentional attempt to violate or circumvent the rules, no player involvement, and no effort to conceal the ball attendant’s conduct. As (NFL executive VP of football operations) Mr. (Troy) Vincent testified, the ball never got into the game and the matter “was addressed immediately.”
The ball is now in Brady’s court as the four-time world champion is reportedly mulling suing the NFL, and it’s unclear when there will be resolution to a potential suit.
Further questions include what the Patriots will do at quarterback in the preseason. The Patriots travel to Charlotte on Aug. 28.
Second-year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo saw time in six games last year and has 19 completions in 27 attempts for 182 yards and a touchdown.
The Panthers host the Patriots in the third exhibition of the preseason, a game where the Week 1 starters usually play the most. Would coach Bill Belichick try to get Garoppolo as many first-team reps as possible in the exhibition closest to a regular-season game? Or will the Patriots and Belichick turn to Brady on the first possession as if this is any other preseason?
Last year the Panthers traveled to New England for the third exhibition of the preseason and Brady played in 58 percent of the offensive snaps; Garoppolo saw just 33 percent of the snaps.
Plenty of eyes in the NFL will be on Bank of America Stadium next month.