Whatever NFL commissioner Roger Goodell decides in the matter of Tom Brady’s appeal, it’s clear that neither side will claim it didn’t have the chance to speak its piece.
The appeal apparently began a little bit after 9 a.m. Eastern time and didn’t conclude until a little bit 8:30 p.m., a marathon meeting considering it was about deflated footballs. No further hearings were scheduled, according to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, who said there were 10 hours of testimony. Clearly both sides wanted to wrap it all up in one day, even though it took more than 11 hours.
Presumably a lot of time was spent dissecting investigator Ted Wells’ report, and dealing with the scientific findings of his investigation and the subsequent reports that refuted them. According to the NFL Network, there were more than 40 people present at the hearing, and it was held in the downstairs conference room at NFL offices because it was such a large meeting. Brady is appealing a four-game suspension handed out for whatever role he had in the under-inflation of the Patriots’ footballs during the AFC championship game.
Jeffrey Kessler, Brady’s attorney through the NFLPA, said Brady stayed until the end of the appeal, that there’s no timetable for a decision from Goodell but “we feel like we made a very compelling case in there,” via Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post.
As the hearing went on, a large crowd had gathered to see Brady leave, via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe:
And has the appeal dragged on and on and on, that crowd thinned out.
The NFL suspended Brady four games based on the report from Wells, which vaguely stated it was “more probable than not” that the quarterback was “at least generally aware” of the activities of employees John Jastremski and Jim McNally to deflate footballs. That was an outrageous punishment considering it didn’t follow any precedent set by the NFL and there was almost no evidence of Brady’s wrongdoing. But it’s also tough to imagine the NFL backtracking on a punishment it handed out. The NFLPA did not want Goodell to preside over the appeal, but to the surprise of nobody he did anyway.
On Monday, NFL Network’s Albert Breer and others reported that Wells would be at the appeal. Brady arrived for the appeal at about 9 a.m., according to the reporters there. He came into the NFL’s Park Avenue offices through a side door, with many fans and media watching his arrival. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Brady testified “under oath,” a pretty ridiculous notion for a NFL appeal, but the league is consistently out of its element when it comes to acting like a justice system.
The NFL reportedly said in a letter (via Schefter) that Brady’s side would have four hours to present its case, but Aiello said on Twitter that there was no four-hour limit and the league expected Brady’s side to go more than four hours.
The whole ordeal has brought Brady’s legacy into question. After his fourth Super Bowl win, and an incredible fourth-quarter comeback against the Seattle Seahawks in that game, Brady strengthened his already strong case to be considered the greatest quarterback in NFL history. For some, mostly those who are tired of the Patriots winning, deflate-gate has damaged that legacy. It also played into the legacy of Goodell, whose haphazard punishments have been a major issue in the criticism of his time as commissioner. That’s why it seemed there was more at stake in this appeal than normal. That’s also why there has been plenty of speculation that the case could end up in federal court if Brady’s suspension isn’t entirely overturned.
The chances of Brady getting the desired result in federal court seem slim, however, because the players are bound by the collective-bargaining agreement, and most judges are wary of overruling CBAs (ESPN.com explained this in detail). Perhaps Brady, via a temporary restraining order or injunction, could buy some time and play in the regular-season opener through the courts.
The thought heading into the appeal, based on Goodell’s insistence that he wanted to hear from Brady himself, was that Brady would have to present some new information that proved his innocence. That’s tough to do, but it might determine if Brady serves all four games of his suspension or gets a reduced sentence by Goodell.
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