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Joe Thomas rips Deflategate probe, Roger Goodell's 'ridiculous witch hunts'

BEREA, Ohio -- Joe Thomas does not think the punishment fits the crime in the Deflategate saga.

"I would equate what [Tom Brady] did to driving 66 [mph] in a 65 speed zone, and getting the death penalty," Thomas said Sunday after the Cleveland Browns' training camp practice.

The Pro Bowl left tackle said Brady does not even deserve to be fined, but added that what Goodell is doing is "brilliant."

"I'm not sure if he realizes what he's doing is brilliant, but what he's doing is brilliant because he's made the NFL relevant 365 [days] by having these outrageous, ridiculous witch hunts," Thomas said. "It's made the game more popular than ever and it's become so much more of an entertainment business and it's making so much money.

"That's why I'm sure there's plenty of people saying this is embarrassing for the league. But it's an entertainment business when it comes right down to it. When the game gets eyeballs in newspapers and on TV, that's what in the end is the goal for everyone. And that's what this controversy is giving them."

In an interview with ESPN.com, Thomas touched on many elements of the deflated football saga and ruling, and on the authority of Goodell. He called Goodell's decision "completely ridiculous" because the league allows quarterbacks to go to great lengths to make game footballs the way they want them.

"If you want [quarterbacks] to play with a brand new football that comes out of the box, then make that the rule," Thomas said. "If you're going to allow them to break it in because you want more passing yards, then let them do whatever they want.

"I would equate what [Tom Brady] did to driving 66 [mph] in a 65 speed zone, and getting the death penalty."

Joe Thomas

"Who cares if they throw a football that has no air pressure? What does it matter? Why don't we let the quarterbacks do whatever they want to the football? I don't understand why there's any rules."

Thomas called the minimum pressures for footballs "arbitrary."

"We know [quarterbacks] already doctor [footballs] 99 percent, why do we care about the 1 percent in the air pressure?" Thomas said. "Why does that matter? Nobody's even explained why that even matters."

Thomas said Brady is not a cheater.

"I think he's trying to do everything he can to gain a competitive advantage to help him do his job better, which is to throw the football," Thomas said. "Why should we be punishing a guy that wants to do his job better?"

Thomas acknowledged that the collective bargaining agreement gives Goodell disciplinary power in many matters.

"But it was probably an oversight by the players because they didn't expect him to act so unreasonably because his predecessor did not act unreasonably," Thomas said. "But I think we're talking about a different NFL now. Like I said, before it was more about the game. Now it's such an entertainment business. It's almost like the Kim Kardashian factor that any news is good news when you're in the NFL."

Thomas added that Goodell tries to act "like he's the Supreme Court justices ... coming out with this fair outcome." But he said Goodell more often than not wields a "super hard hammer," citing the initial penalties for the New Orleans Saints for the alleged bounty scandal.

"If he even thinks somebody is sort of guilty of some level of crime, they just try to destroy him," Thomas said.

In the past, Thomas said, the commissioner would address issues with the teams involved.

"They wouldn't set up a sting operation and try to get [a player] suspended for four games," he said.

"Until there's information that says otherwise, to me it looked like a sting operation," Thomas said, referring to how the balls were measured and handled during the AFC Championship Game between the Patriots and Colts.

Thomas applauded Brady for fighting the suspension in federal court.

"I'm glad that he's fighting [it]," Thomas said. "Because it's good for the game. It's an entertainment business. It's turning into the WWE really. It's like the Vince McMahon stuff. Basically Goodell is like Vince McMahon."