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NFL AM: Tom Brady’s Four-Game Suspension Upheld

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A ruling by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday made it as likely as ever that Tom Brady will finally serve a suspension this season to end the deflategate saga once and for all.

The only thing standing in the way of that now might be the highest court in the land.

The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals denied a petition put together by Brady and the NFL Players Association to rehear the case surrounding his four-game suspension for his involvement in a scandal dating all the way back to the 2015 AFC Championship Game. The NFLPA released a statement on Wednesday expressing their displeasure with the decision and the power it enables commissioner Roger Goodell to continue to wield.

“We are disappointed with the decision denying a rehearing, as there were clear violations of our collective bargaining agreement by the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell. Despite today’s result, the track record of this League office when it comes to matters of player discipline is bad for our business and bad for our game. We have a broken system that must be fixed.”

It was Goodell who suspended Brady for four games back in May of 2015 after a league-ordered investigation by attorney Ted Wells concluded that it was “more likely than not” that Brady was aware of actions taken by Patriots staffers to deflate game balls for his benefit prior to New England’s 45-7 AFC Championship Game rout of the Indianapolis Colts. That suspension was initially struck down in September of 2015 by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman, which allowed Brady to play out the 2015-16 season. However, the suspension was reinstated in April of 2016 after an appeals panel ruled that Goodell was within his power, granted by the collective bargaining, to issue the suspension.

Brady and his legal team immediately petitioned for a re-hearing of his case, which was finally denied on Wednesday after nearly two months. The denial of that petition leaves Brady with just one avenue to fight off his impending suspension: the United States Supreme Court, an absurd but very real possibility.

Brady and his legal team now have 90 days to file an appeal of the Second Circuit Court’s ruling with the Supreme Court, and they are expected to do so. However, it seems likely that their first action will be to ask for a stay of the Second Circuit Court’s decision, either by that court itself or by the Supreme Court. If a stay is granted in either case, it would likely mean Brady would be able to play out the 2016 season and we’d have to go through even more of this next offseason.

However, getting a stay granted at this stage in the game is unlikely, as is any chance that the United States Supreme Court would spend time hearing Brady’s case. If Brady’s team is denied on those fronts, he would be left with no other option but to serve the suspension. That means that this saga may finally be at, or at least near, its end.

So what does it mean for the 2016 New England Patriots, who will now very likely be without Brady for the first four games of the season?

Fortunately, New England has been planning for over a year now to have Jimmy Garoppolo under center at some point in Brady’s stead, and the experience the 24-year-old got last summer, combined with that he should get this summer should have him as ready as he can be to lead the Pats for a little while. Observers at Patriots camp have seen the Eastern Illinois product grow by leaps and bounds over the last three years and he showed off impressive progression at OTAs and minicamp last month.

“I think it’s going the right way, going in the right direction,” Garoppolo said then. “Obviously, there’s a long way to go. I’m only going into Year 3 now. There’s tons of things to improve on. If we keep going the right way, we’ll be all right. I think it’s going real good, to be honest. I know all the guys. The guys know me. You learn defenses, it’s not like you pick up the playbook for the first time. . . . I remember back to rookie OTAs, and it’s like night and day. It’s going well.”

However, despite the progress he’s made on the practice field, Garoppolo is still essentially a rookie, having thrown just 31 NFL passes, all in garbage-time relief of Brady, over his first two seasons in the league. Stepping in to start the season represents an entirely different animal and the slate the young quarterback would face in Brady’s stead, it’s not exactly promising for New England.

The Patriots open the season on Sunday Night Football against one of the best defenses in the league, the Arizona Cardinals, on the road. Arizona was fifth in the league in total defense last year and eighth against the pass, so they’ll will present a stiff opening test. And members of that defense, who still have a sour taste in their mouths from the way their season ended in the playoffs to Carolina, are “licking their chops” thinking about opening up against Garoppolo instead of Brady, as defensive end Calais Cambell told CBS Sports Radio on Wednesday.

“You get a rookie quarterback, it’s always exciting when you get a guy like that for his first game because he’s going to be nervous. He’s probably going to be sitting there holding the ball a little longer or trying to get rid of it quick, throwing bad balls,” Cambell said. “As a vet, we definitely pride ourselves on welcoming (quarterbacks) the right way.”

Following that opener against the Cardinals in Arizona, Garoppolo gets a bit of a reprieve as New England’s next three games are all in the friendly confines of Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium. However, two of those games are against divisional rivals: Miami and Buffalo, and they’re sandwiched around a meeting with another of the league’s best defenses, the Houston Texans, led by superstar defensive end J.J. Watt.

It’s certainly not going to be easy for Jimmy and the Pats, but if they can manage to get out of the gate 2-2, as they did two years ago on the road to a championship, they should be in good shape upon Brady’s return.


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys