It will be a tense six months for New England Patriots fans as they try to look forward to the 2016 NFL season.
Patriots fans were downright excited to hear U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman’s decision in the initial appeal of quarterback Tom Brady’s Deflategate suspension. That hearing went well for Brady, the NFL Players Association and the Patriots, as Berman ruled in September to vacate the quarterback’s four-game ban.
It seems Thursday’s appeal by the NFL might have gone equally positive for the league. Reporters on the scene in New York say two judges, Barrington Parker and Denny Chin, appeared to favor the NFL, while Robert Katzmann leaned toward Brady and the NFLPA’s side.
Katzmann questioned Paul Clement, the NFL’s lawyer, about why the league punished Brady as if he tested positively for steroids rather than a standard equipment violation. Clement responded Brady was punished for conduct detrimental to the league.
Parker said some might call the NFL’s suspension “draconian” and questioned why football inflation level is so important, according to New York federal court reporter Max Stendahl.
The judges then peppered Jeffrey Kessler, the NFLPA’s lawyer, about why Brady destroyed his cell phone. Parker said Brady’s explanation “made no sense whatsoever.” Chin said evidence that the Patriots tampered with footballs in the 2014 AFC Championship Game was “compelling, if not overwhelming.”
As was the case with Berman’s hearing, the focus, surprisingly, was on evidence rather than procedure.
Sports Illustrated legal expert Michael McCann said the NFL is “likely confident it will win 2 to 1.” He also tweeted that if the court reverses Berman’s decision, they might remand it, which would mean the NFL and NFLPA would have to go back to court in front of Berman.
Ultimately, the three judges will rule on Berman’s decision, which he based on procedure, not evidence. Berman ruled the NFL failed to inform Brady he would face a four-game suspension for being involved in football deflation, didn’t allow the QB to cross-examine general counsel Jeffrey Pash and refused to allow the Patriots star to access witness interview notes and other investigative materials, as McCann pointed out earlier this week.
In order to reinstate Brady’s suspension or reverse Berman’s decision, the three judges must disagree with those three rulings.
Thursday didn’t seem to go well for Brady, but, as with any court case, this ruling could go either way. Unfortunately, there could be a long wait for a conclusion. McCann previously predicted we won’t have a resolution to this hearing until the summer or fall.
The Patriots probably should pause any talks, if they exist in the first place, of trading Jimmy Garoppolo until a ruling has been made. They might need their backup quarterback to start at some point during the 2016 season.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images