Here's what happens if Tom Brady takes his Deflategate suspension to court

Tom Brady continues to wait for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision on his appeal of the four game suspension he received for his role in Deflategate.

As he waits, NFLPA sources told ESPN legal analyst Ryan Smith Brady is committed to taking his case to federal court if Goodell doesn’t completely vacate his four game suspension.

If Brady does, in fact, take his case to federal court, Smith said on the ESPN Radio show “Mike & Mike” he believes the four-time Super Bowl champion has a “50-50 chance” to get his suspension completely overturned.

“I think his arguments are strong enough to say ‘Where’s the precedent in all this? What is the standard we’re using to punish him?'” Smith said. “Those are the kinds of things the courts will look at and say, ‘Hey wait — this decision seems fundamentally unfair and we’ve got to overturn it.’ So if I was a betting man, I think he wins in federal court. I think he wins whatever case he brings.”

Brady received a four game suspension as a result of what the NFL described as, “conduct detrimental to the integrity of the NFL.” NFL investigator Ted Wells detailed in a massive 243 page report that two Patriots employees purposely deflated footballs significantly below the NFL minimum PSI level of 12.5, and that Brady was “generally aware” of the misconduct. Deflated footballs tend to give quarterbacks a better grip, and are easier to throw.

Smith described the term “generally aware” as laughable, and said that Wells not taking a hard stance in his report could come back to seriously hurt the NFL if Brady takes his case to federal court:

“They say he was ‘generally aware’ in the Wells report about this particular scheme to deflate these footballs. What does that even mean? Am I ‘generally aware’ that I’m on air with you right now? You know, so that has to be resolved. Yeah, I think I am, but I can’t be sure. See, that’s the kind of stuff they’re going to try to play out in court and say ‘Guys, this doesn’t make any sense’.”

A source within the NFLPA spoke with The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore and confirmed the “generally aware” phrase is just one of five main points they plan on basing Brady’s potential argument on:

  1. Wells claimed that Brady was at least “generally aware” of the misconduct. The NFLPA would argue being “generally aware” of something has no legal grounds. Either Wells found clear evidence that Brady committed some sort of wrong doing or he didn’t.
  2. The NFL policy for handling footballs, among other team equipment, is in a club manual which pertains to team employees — not players. They will argue Brady was suspended on a rule which doesn’t even apply to him.
  3. Even if the club rules did apply to him, the NFLPA will argue there was no such precedence for a four game suspension. Under the agreed upon collective bargaining agreement, players have a right to know the specific consequences for the specific violations of league rules.
  4. The NFLPA plans to cite a specific example to further prove Brady’s suspension is unwarranted based on the current rules. They plan to reference an incident which occurred last year when the NFL caught the Minnesota Vikings tampering with footballs by placing them in a dryer, a violation of the club manual. The Vikings punishment was reportedly just a letter from the NFL — no fine, loss of draft picks, or suspension.
  5. Lastly, the NFLPA would question Wells’ procedure for measuring the footballs, saying there was never a previous set standard to do so.

Even if Brady doesn’t have his suspension overturned, there is still a good chance he ends up starting Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. If Brady takes his case to federal court, he can file an injunction — which, in general terms, “freezes” the NFL’s four game suspension while the matter resolves itself in the legal system.

Kilgore believes that Brady has good chance to receive an injunction, if he wants one:

“Any appeal in federal court would include a request for an injunction to delay any suspension until a decision is reached. Essentially, Brady and the NFLPA would ask that the court to freeze the ban until the case ends. The bar to attain an injunction is low — lawyers would only need to show that Brady had been caused ‘irreparable harm’ by the NFL’s decision.”

The “freeze” would be lifted once the case is resolved in federal court, either Brady will have had his suspension overturned and he can continue to play, or the federal court rules the NFL’s discipline of brady was fair and his four game suspension is then immediately reinstated — meaning if the case drags on into the regular season, Brady could potentially be suspended for Weeks 14, 15, 16, and 17, rather than Weeks 1, 2, 3, and 4.

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