The general consensus is that the NFL dropped the hammer on the New England Patriots on Monday, suspending Tom Brady for four games, fining the franchise $1 million and docking two draft picks.
Former Saints defensive end Will Smith, however, does not subscribe to that school of thought. In fact, he’s just the opposite.
“Well, I thought the four games was kind of light,” Smith said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I was expecting something a little bit heavier because it’s something that’s probably been ongoing and (that) just recently got (discovered) in the AFC Championship Game. As far as the team and the head coach – the million-dollar fine and the two draft picks (getting taken away) really don’t hurt the Patriots. They do a great job of bringing guys in, of finding guys, undrafted free agents, that wind up becoming starters. So I don’t think that really affects them that much. But the biggest thing that I was surprised (by) is they didn’t do anything to Belichick. At least suspend him or fine him for not knowing what was going on with his team.”
Indeed, Smith believes that something nefarious was going on throughout the organization, that it wasn’t just the equipment guys acting on their own accord.
“There had to be,” Smith said. “The equipment guys do not touch any of the equipment without your consent. They leave your cleats alone. They leave your shoulder pads alone. They leave your gloves alone – unless you ask them to alter (them) in some way shape or form, which isn’t illegal. But altering a ball actually is illegal. Now, I’m not a quarterback, I’m not on the offensive side of the ball, and I don’t know what those guys do to the actual footballs. But it’s hard to believe that Tom had no knowledge that those balls were being altered, especially under certain circumstances (like) weather conditions. It’s just hard to believe that he didn’t have a say in what was going on.”
Smith’s take on this matter is, in some ways, surprising. Because he was part of the Bountygate scandal, you might think he’d be sympathetic to the Patriots and feel their punishment is unjust.
“No, because in the Bountygate situation, that was set up by one coach, executed by one coach, delivered by one coach,” Smith said. “The players had nothing to do with it. We were the least-penalized team in the NFL. One guy’s name was mentioned in the report that they initially had, but they winded up suspending four guys because we were quote-unquote the leaders of the team and we should have did something to stop it. That’s where it became a bit foolish.”
Smith, Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita were initially suspended for various lengths of time – 16 games in Vilma’s case – but the suspensions were eventually overturned. Sean Payton, Gregg Williams and Mickey Loomis, however, weren’t as lucky.
“This was an attack on the organization, an attack on the leadership of the team – which, it really wasn’t,” Smith said. “The commissioner took (the report) and ran with it and created a whole entire report that had nothing to do with it. I think this is a totally different situation. They’re dealing with he quarterback, who has the ball in his hands every single play. Did it help them win games? Did it (not) help them win games? We don’t know the (answer) to that. But we know that it was altered that game and it possibly was altered many other games in the past. That speaks on the integrity of the game. We don’t know if they had an advantage all of those games prior to that game.”
Smith was asked if he thinks the NFL is good at reviewing reports, determining punishments and serving in a disciplinary capacity.
“No, I don’t think so,” Smith said. “I think they already have an objective that they want to execute and they create the report to execute that objective. I think that’s pretty much it. There’s no evidence really to suggest (Brady) was involved, but as a former player, I know that he had to have some involvement. If you know Bill Belichick and you know any player that played underneath him, they’ll tell you that he knows everything going on in that organization. I don’t think it was a surprise. So the fact that they kind of can assume that he had some knowledge (of) it, I think the penalty should have been a little harsher, being that they already won the Super Bowl. The damage is done. I think it’s more or less a reputation thing. They already won the game.”