Latest On Deflategate

The NFL relying on suspending Tom Brady for “conduct detrimental to the integrity of” the game is a slippery slope, writes Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio in analyzing both the league’s and NFLPA’s briefs issued Friday night (Twitter link).

While the NFL is aiming toward using this broad language to illustrate why Brady deserved the four-game suspension, the NFLPA can argue Brady’s punishment should reside in the realm of an equipment violation rather than a performance-enhancing drug-level ban. The 2011 CBA that grants Roger Goodell suspension leeway, however, the two sides negotiated points into the agreement that pertain to detrimental conduct.

Florio points to the fine schedule, which contains amounts for which players can be fined for certain offenses, such as taunting or various excessive roughness. The PFT writer compares this case to a player caught using stickum, which would bring a fine of less than $10,000, as opposed to the immense charges that have been levied here.

Here are some other observations from the latest Deflategate salvos.

  • The NFL will point to legal precedents where judges didn’t overrule the decisions of arbitrators, writes Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (on Twitter). Citing those cases, the NFL’s argument could supersede Goodell’s potentially questionable tactics when upholding the 16th-year Patriots quarterback’s suspension.
  • Whether or not Ted Wells needed to be viewed as an independent investigator poses another gray area, writes Michael McCann of The NFL now argues Wells’ affiliation is immaterial, but McCann points out judge Richard M. Berman could look at previous statements praising the investigator’s impartiality in being assigned this case. Those optics wouldn’t look good for the league.
  • In addressing the case Friday night in Canton, Ohio, Goodell pointed to the CBA in defending his decision. “Listen, he’s a great player and he’s a great young man. We issued the decision just last week. We’re in the midst of litigation to … ensure that that’s enforced the way we ruled on that, after a long process that is established in our collective bargaining agreement. That’s something we’ll play through,” the commissioner said via Ron Borges of Talk of Fame Sports. Inductee Ron Wolf also praised Goodell for his judgment, replaying “Way to go on that Brady thing,” which induced uproarious Goodell laughter. The former Packers executive clarified that he while it came out as a joke, he meant to merely congratulate the league boss on finally coming to a decision.
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