Not So Fast, Tom Brady

by Tyler Roaix

The NFL has won the latest round in its Deflategate legal battle and Tom Brady is once again suspended for the first four games of the season.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has ruled that the NFL does indeed have the authority to suspend Brady, overturning a lower court ruling and reinstating the four-game suspension that Brady was originally handed last year.

“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,” the Court said of the 2-1 decision.

Two seasons ago, en route to their fourth Super Bowl, the New England Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 in the AFC Championship Game. The Colts suggested the Patriots were using footballs that were deflated past the legal pounds per square inch (psi), which led to a big, drawn-out investigation by the league, Tom Brady destroying a cell phone and documents being likely mishandled and misinterpreted. The whole thing clouded both the off-season and the start of the following season. The infamous Wells Report that resulted said that Brady had a “more probable than not” involvement with the tampering.

The league’s findings in the Deflategate investigation were that Brady was more likely than not to have ordered the Patriots’ equipment staff to deflate footballs below the minimum level of 12.5 psi. Brady has insisted that he did no such thing.

The biggest misconception over the latest ruling is that this is about what Brady and the Patriots did. “This wasn’t about the actual violation,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “This was about the rights we had negotiated in our collective bargaining agreement, that we had in our collective bargaining agreement, and that we wanted to make sure that we retained.”

Essentially, the question isn’t if the Patriots violated any rules, it’s whether or not Goodell and the NFL had the right to give the penalties they gave to the team and future Hall of Famer.

There have been so many twists and turns in the Deflategate saga that no one should assume it’s over, but for the moment the NFL has won, Brady has lost and the Patriots appear set to start the season without their star quarterback.

For a player of Brady’s stature, the first question you would ask is, “How much money is he losing?” But he’s no dummy. In fact it’s almost as if he saw this coming. In March, Brady and the Patriots renegotiated his deal to go from $9 million per year to $1 million per year in base salary. A player with at least 10 years in the league is required to make at least $985,000, so Brady’s new deal is essentially paying him the league minimum.

Why so little? Because Brady received a $28 million signing bonus when the deal was made. Perhaps Brady wanted a little insurance just in case the suspension was in fact overturned. The new deal ends up saving Brady almost $2 million during the four-game suspension.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft expressed his displeasure with the suspension. “I share in our fans’ anger and frustration with the penalties the league has levied and the entire process and how it was conducted. But please trust that I am always trying to do what I believe is best for this franchise and pledge that I will always continue to do that.”

With the four-game suspension, the Pats will turn to backup Jimmy Garoppolo, who has just 31 pass attempts in his young NFL career. In reality, this isn’t going to have a major impact on the team’s playoff chances. The closest competition they have in their division is the New York Jets, who don’t even have a quarterback at this point. With that said, the Patriots’ first four matchups of the 2016 season are as follows; at Cardinals and then at home against Dolphins, Texans and Bills. Worst-case scenario is the Patriots go 2-2, then Brady comes back and leads the team to yet another division title.

Every sports talk show will rave about Tom Brady’s suspension all summer as if it is the biggest headline, but in reality it doesn’t mean much. It gives Roger Goodell a very rare notch in the win column. It gives us fans of every other team a brief moment to celebrate that Big Bad Brady finally got tripped up. But that moment is only going to last four weeks, so cherish it. When Brady comes back, he’s going to be the Brady we love to hate. He’s going to be the guy who wins games and sends us home disappointed. He may be gone for now, but come playoff time, it will be the same story that it is every year.