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Patriots' lawyer: 'Deflator' texts were about weight loss, not footballs

In this Jan. 18, 2015, file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looks to pass during the first half of the NFL football AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts  in Foxborough, Mass. The NFL suspended Brady for the first four games on Monday, May 11, 2015, for his role in a scheme to deflate footballs used in the AFC title game. [Associated Press]
In this Jan. 18, 2015, file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looks to pass during the first half of the NFL football AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts in Foxborough, Mass. The NFL suspended Brady for the first four games on Monday, May 11, 2015, for his role in a scheme to deflate footballs used in the AFC title game. [Associated Press]
Published May 14, 2015

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — A Patriots lawyer says the "deflator" nickname used by a ballboy and cited in the NFL's decision to suspend quarterback Tom Brady was about weight loss, not footballs.

Team attorney Daniel Goldberg said Thursday the two Patriots employees used the term jokingly to refer to locker room attendant Jim McNally, who was trying to lose weight.

In a 20,000-word rebuttal to the league's findings, Goldberg disputes the investigator hired by the NFL on matters of science, logic and law.

Goldberg represented the team and was present during all of interviews of team personnel. Patriots spokesman Stacey James confirmed that the site wellsreportcontext.com was genuine and "approved/supported by the team."

The rebuttal was published ahead of a deadline for Brady to appeal a four-game suspension. The team was also fined $1 million and had two draft picks taken away.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Tom Brady's challenge to his four-game suspension by the NFL is set to begin.

The star quarterback of the defending Super Bowl champions is expected to appeal by the deadline of 5 p.m. Thursday. The suspension was issued Monday for his part in the deflation of footballs below the league-mandated minimum for the AFC championship game.

His agent, Don Yee, said shortly after the suspension was announced that the appeal would be filed. The New England Patriots have not said if they'll appeal their penalty - a $1 million fine and the loss of a first-round draft pick next year and a fourth-rounder in 2017.

Yee has criticized the suspension that was based on a 243-page report of an investigation headed by NFL-appointee Ted Wells. On Tuesday, Wells was critical of Yee in a conference call with reporters.

That report issued April 29 said that it was "more probable than not" that Brady "was at least generally aware" of plans by two team employees to prepare the balls to his liking. They inflated the balls below the league minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch.

It also said Brady and the team were not fully cooperative with the investigation, which contributed to the penalties.

The NFL will go against an experienced foe in labor lawyer Jeffrey Kessler. He has won other appeals against the league and is helping Brady.

On the other side would be NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or a person he designates. That person would be chosen in consultation with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith.

Brady's appeal only deals with the suspension and must be heard within 10 days.

If it is upheld, he would miss the first four games. The Patriots open the NFL season at home against Pittsburgh on Sept. 10, then travel to Buffalo before a home game against Jacksonville. After a bye week, their fourth game will be in Dallas.

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Brady would be eligible to return for the fifth game on Oct. 18 at Indianapolis. The probe began after the Colts complained that Brady used deflated footballs in their 45-7 loss to the Patriots in the AFC title game.