A ruling is expected soon for Tom Brady's appeal of a four-game suspension he received for his involvement in DeflateGate.
The NFL commissioned a report to look into allegations that the New England Patriots played with slightly deflated balls on offense against the Indianapolis Colts in a 45-7 victory in the AFC Championship. The Wells Report, released in May, found that it was "more probable than not" that Brady knew of the plan to illegally deflate the balls after they were inspected by referees and a four-game suspension was subsequently handed down.
Brady received the ban, coupled with the loss of draft picks and money for the New England Patriots, and appealed the decision in June. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell named himself arbitrator for the case, and while the NFLPA asked him to step down and name a third-party to oversee Brady's appeal, Goodell refused to recuse himself.
Now, nearly a month after Brady first made his appeal, Goodell is expected to announce his decision, although there's a strong chance that the DeflateGate saga hasn't yet reached its conclusion.
What happens next?
If any suspension remains after Goodell's ruling, Brady is expected to challenge the decision in federal court. It's possible that Goodell could cut down Brady's suspension to less than four games, but the NFLPA has already begun work on a case to be heard in front of a federal judge and feels confident that it is a strong case, so the chance to eliminate a suspension altogether is likely going to be pursued.
That case is expected to be filed by the NFLPA in Massachusetts or Minnesota. Massachusetts would serve as a sort of "home field advantage" for Brady, while Minnesota has been a labor-friendly state in the past, and is the state that ruled in favor of Adrian Peterson after he took the NFL to federal court for upholding an indefinite suspension during the 2014 season.
Of course, it's possible that no such case will be necessary. Goodell said that Brady's non-cooperation with the league's investigation played a factor in the punishment handed down and that "new information" provided by the quarterback could result in a different decision. If Goodell eliminates Brady's suspension altogether, that would officially mark the end of DeflateGate.
What can the NFLPA sue the NFL for?
The NFLPA has laid out a few points that it wants to attack the NFL on, including the fact that Goodell didn't recuse himself. The union's argument would be that Brady wasn't treated fairly and didn't receive due process. A league-funded investigation found him guilty, the league commissioner punished him and the league commissioner heard his appeal.
Other points in the NFLPA's case revolve around the precedent and rules that Brady is being punished for. The NFL policy for equipment puts the responsibility in the hands of team personnel, not players, so the NFLPA plans to argue that the policy doesn't actually apply to Brady. The lack of rules regarding equipment targeted at players also made the four-game suspension one that came without much precedent.
Furthermore, the NFLPA's case is expected to include cases of inconsistent applications of the rules. According to the Washington Post, the union will point to a previous slap on the wrist for the Minnesota Vikings for illegally tampering with footballs.
Will Tom Brady play in Week 1?
As of right now, Brady is still suspended for New England's season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. And unless Goodell eliminates the suspension altogether, it will remain that way. However, a ruling in favor of Brady in federal court could immediately end that.
It's also possible that the trail could extend into the regular season, and if that's the case, a judge could call for an injunction that allows Brady to play for the Patriots during the trial. That wouldn't be an elimination of his suspension though, and if the judge ruled against Brady and upheld the suspension, Brady would be immediately pulled from action.
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