The long-anticipated appeal hearing for Tom Brady‘s suspension gets underway this morning. Brady, commissioner Roger Goodell, and several other key players from the NFL and NFLPA arrived today in advance of the session, which was scheduled to begin at 9:30am eastern time.
Brady and the NFLPA will make the case that the quarterback’s four-game suspension should be reduced or eliminated altogether. However, as a league source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link), if Brady says the same thing during his appeal hearing that he did to DeflateGate investigator Ted Wells, his ban won’t change.
Goodell, who appointed himself the arbitrator for the hearing, turned down an NFLPA request to recuse himself, in part because he wants to look Brady in the eye, as he put it. Of course, the former MVP’s comments won’t be the only factor in the union’s case — witnesses central to the AEI report that criticized the Wells report are expected to speak on behalf of the NFLPA.
Still, whereas the AEI report questioned the Wells report’s findings, Brady will have to prove his innocence to get his penalty reduced, tweets Albert Breer of the NFL Network. As Tom Pelissero of USA Today observes (via Twitter), the key question for Brady will be whether he can explain the 57-minute conversation he had on the phone with Pats employee John Jastremski after the initial story broke following the AFC Championship game.
Although the appeal hearing is beginning today, there’s no guarantee it will last just one day, and even if it wraps up by this evening, a decision won’t come immediately. For comparison’s sake, Greg Hardy‘s appeal hearing for his 10-game suspension took place in late May, and arbitrator Harold Henderson has yet to announce his ruling, several weeks later.
Additionally, if Brady and the NFLPA don’t agree with the outcome of this appeal, it’s very possible – perhaps even likely – that they file a lawsuit and take the case to court, challenging Goodell’s involvement in the process. With about two and a half months until the regular season gets underway, the saga could conceivably stretch through the rest of the offseason.