Tom Brady and New England Patriots feel full force of NFL with deflategate punishment

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After four months of investigation, last week's publication of the Wells Report appeared to condemn both the New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady for their role in apparent ball tampering prior to their AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.

The aftermath - despite the report being far from definitive it its findings - saw many come down hard on Brady, urging the NFL in turn to hand out a punishment befitting of someone who intentional sought to break the rules.

Well, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, that is exactly what has happened today with both Brady and the Patriots hit where it hurts.

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Schefter, citing a source, revealed that Tom Brady will be suspended for the first four games of the upcoming 2015 NFL season.

The Patriots meanwhile have lost their first round draft pick for the 2016 season as well as a fourth round selection in 2017. The franchise is also facing a team fine of $1 million.

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The NFL later published its own statement detailing exactly how they came to their decision on the punishment itself. Again, Schefter relayed the information:

Hugely damaging

The outcome will come as a shock to many Patriots fans who had hoped the NFL would err on the side of caution following the Wells Report's publication.

Instead though Roger Goodell and co have taken the opportunity to send out a very clear message to all 32 franchises. Cheat (or be seen to be cheating) and you will be punished severely.

The four game suspension to the reigning Super Bowl MVP, as well as the loss of a first round draft pick, are potentially damaging to the Patriots as they bid to build on an impressive 2014 campaign.

The damage done to Tom Brady's legacy, though, may be far more severe. Just a few months ago the New England quarterback was being lauded as one of the greatest ever having got his hands on his fourth Super Bowl trophy.

Whatever he does from here on out, though, and whatever he has achieved in the past will now be forever tainted by this suspension. His squeaky clean reputation has been tarnished, perhaps indelibly.

There is no word yet from the Patriots themselves but you can more than likely expect the team, and Brady, to appeal the decision.

Patriots fans: What do you think about the NFL's punishment, have they gone too far? Have your say in the comments section below...

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