3:27pm: Brady is “far from” ready to simply accept today’s court ruling, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who tweets that the former MVP is mulling over his options with his legal team.
10:42am: Tom Brady‘s four-game suspension related to the Patriots’ Deflategate incident, which was initially overturned in court by Judge Richard Berman last year, has been reinstated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, according to Reuters (Twitter link via CNBC Now). The court’s full decision can be found right here.
“We hold that the Commissioner properly exercised his broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement and that his procedural rulings were properly grounded in that agreement and did not deprive Brady of fundamental fairness,” reads the ruling from the Court of Appeals. “Accordingly, we REVERSE the judgment of the district court and REMAND with instructions to confirm the award.”
While the ruling is significant, it likely won’t put the issue to rest — as Albert Breer of the NFL Network tweets, Brady’s next recourse would be to seek an injunction and request a re-hearing before the full Second Circuit, or even to appeal to the Supreme Court. Given how Brady and the NFLPA fought the original four-game suspension in 2015, there’s little reason to think they wouldn’t attempt to get it overturned again for the 2016 season.
However, if today’s ruling is ultimately upheld and Brady serves the four-game suspension, he won’t be eligible to return to regular-season action until Sunday, October 9th in Cleveland. The Patriots would be without their starting quarterback for games against the Cardinals, Dolphins, Texans, and Bills in that scenario.
Jimmy Garoppolo would likely step into the starting role in New England if Brady is forced to miss the first month of the coming season, but the team would have to address the quarterback position further — Brady and Garoppollo are currently the only two QBs on the roster, so another backup would be necessary.
Additionally, assuming the suspension is upheld, it will be interesting to see whether or not the NFL attempts to take away Brady’s pay for four games based on 2015’s salary, or settles for docking that pay from his 2016 salary. Brady reworked his contract earlier this offseason, and will earn a base salary of just $1MM this year, as opposed to $8MM in 2015. Losing four games of 2016 pay would cost him just $235K, whereas it would have cost him $1.88MM a year ago.
The Wells report commissioned by the NFL more than a year ago determined that Brady was “more likely than not” to have been aware of footballs being deflated below their usual levels during the AFC Championship Game against the Colts in January 2015. The league issued a four-game suspension for Brady as a result of those findings, and that penalty was overturned by Judge Berman last summer, prior to the start of the 2015 campaign, allowing Brady to play the full season. The NFL appealed Berman’s decision.
Today’s ruling by the Second Circuit isn’t concerned with whether or not Brady or the Patriots actually deflated footballs intentionally, but rather with the authority of the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell to uphold their disciplinary rulings based on the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.