Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had better be ready to go – for real, this time.
For the second straight offseason, Tom Brady’s status for the first four games of respective regular seasons has been in question and it now looks nearly certain that the future Hall of Fame QB will have to serve time for his alleged role in a conspiracy to deflate footballs in the AFC Championship Game in January of 2015. A federal appeals court ruled Monday that Brady must serve a four-game suspension for his role in Deflategate as two out of the three judges sided with the NFL over the NFLPA.
Here are the three most likely ways this thing finally, mercifully ends:
1. Brady fights a little more, but NFL ultimately wins
The big buzz word in Boston Monday was “stay.” Brady’s camp can ask for a “stay” that the suspension will not be served until all appeals are exhausted. Stays are rarely granted, however.
“Brady could petition to ask the entire 21 judges of the Second Circuit to hear an appeal,” said Jason Bonk, a sports legal expert and litigator with Cozen O’Connor, who spoke with Metro Monday. “This is no longer a matter of right, it’s a matter of request. The panel would have to be willing to hear this case.”
The NFL is basically about to take a knee. Brady needs a miracle. If he’s a realist, he’ll accept any offer from the NFL to have a reduced suspension. Of course, the NFL actually has to offer it first and would want something major in return – like an admission of guilt from Brady and/or for the NFLPA to help Roger Goodell move closer to his dream of an 18-game regular season.
“I’m sure Goodell and company are feeling pretty strong about their position right now,” Bonk told Metro. “They know the Second Circuit rarely agrees to petitions. Might they move it to a three-game suspension because of the fact that Brady brings so much revenue to the league? It’s possible. But the NFL can really play hardball because they have all the leverage right now.”
3. Brady fights a lot more, ultimately wins
Brady did have the backing of the chief judge on the three-judge panel, who compared Brady's violation to the use of “stickum” in a game.
“Given that both the use of stickum and the deflation of footballs involve attempts at improving one’s grip and evading the referees’ enforcement of the rules, this would seem a natural starting point for assessing Brady’s penalty,” Judge Katzmann wrote. “Indeed, the League’s justification for prohibiting stickum — that it ‘affects the integrity of the competitive and can give a team an unfair advantage’ . . . — is nearly identical to the Commissioner’s explanation for what he found problematic about the deflation — that it ‘reflects an improper effort to secure a competitive advantage in, and threatens the integrity of, the game.’
“It is ironic that a process designed to ensure fairness to all players has been unfairly used against one player.”
Bonk thinks that Katzmann’s disagreement with the two other judges gives Brady a glimmer of hope.
“I was stunned by how much the majority went into the earlier facts of the case like the destruction of the cell phone and the phone calls to the ball boy,” Bonk said. “It’s like those two judges did a re-do of Judge [Richard] Berman’s decision without any evidence being resubmitted to them. It’s like they already had their decisions made. I agree with Katzmann that the way this thing should have been reviewed is on whether the decision by Berman was erroneous or not. The two judges essentially re-evaluated the underlying facts of the case which was rare and surprising, and not necessarily appropriate.
“Those two judges are saying that it’s not the courts job to get involved in the CBA,” Bonk added. “But meanwhile that’s exactly what they’re doing by talking about all the underlying facts. They’re talking out of both sides of their mouths.”