Why Tom Brady Will Win His Fight Against the NFL

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Associated Press

Tom Brady's wins are not limited to the football field. On top of four Super Bowls, six AFC titles, and two league MVPs, the guy married the world's biggest supermodel, for crying out loud. He just wins, wins, wins, and there's no reason to think the future Hall of Fame QB won't earn another victory in his quest to have his DeflateGate suspension vaporized.

The NFL helped to fill the void of the sports-free midweek following the MLB All-Star Game with news that the NFLPA will sue the daylights out of the league if any part of Brady's suspension is not lifted. The news set a hell of a block for commissioner Roger Goodell's pending announcement on his ruling of Brady's appeal.

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Goodell suspended Brady, socked the Patriots with a $1 million fine, and stripped the team of a first- and fourth-round draft pick in the wake of the flimsy Wells report that kind of detailed a weak conspiracy theory linking Brady to the tampering of game balls used in the AFC Championship Game. Brady immediately appealed the suspension, and Goodell made it look like a personal vendetta against the Patriots, who have a history of bending the rules, by appointing himself to hear Brady's appeal.

So now the players association is dangling the threat of a federal lawsuit, which don't typically overturn many arbitration rulings unless there are serious faults in the judgement. The NFLPA's case will hinge on several points that may be enough to dismantle the DeflateGate suspension, chief among them Goodell appointing himself as the arbitrator in Brady's appeal.

  • NFL rules pertaining to equipment apply to club personnel, not players. Brady, according to the rule book, is not responsible for the air pressure of balls, same as he is not accountable for the color of Rob Gronkowski's game socks.
  • The Wells report, the basis for the suspension, did not produce concrete evidence connecting Brady to tampered balls. It said only he was "at least generally aware," which is pretty limp, and in a courtroom does not remove all reasonable doubt.
  • The DeflateGate conspiracy is unique and therefore there is no precedent to set a proper suspension.
  • The Minnesota Vikings were caught tampering with footballs last year when staffers put them in a dryer, which is not permitted. While the Patriots were hammered with sanctions and Brady's suspension, the Vikings received only a warning.

The NFLPA is actually pretty good at winning these things, and it helps that there are so many holes in the NFL's case against Brady. Adrian Peterson successfully overturned his indefinite suspension in federal court and got himself reinstated earlier this year, and in the court of public opinion, his crimes were more horrific. All Brady is accused of doing is directing equipment guys to let a little air out of some footballs, which falls somewhere between gamesmanship and cheating.

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Brady wants his name cleared, and the NFL is in danger of losing another public battle against a petulant player. Peterson had his day in court and won. Ray Rice appealed an indefinite suspension last year and won immediate reinstatement in December. And most recently, Greg Hardy fought his 10-game suspension and got it knocked down to four games, despite the NFL building its own domestic violence investigation against him. Including Brady's suspension on a list with what those other guys were disciplined for just doesn't feel right.

Hardy was found guilty of beating and terrorizing his girlfriend, but the charges were later dropped when she stopped talking to the authorities. How does that stack up against being an alleged DeflateGate conspirator?

NFL Executive Vice President Troy Vincent, a former players association chief, recently blasted the union for relying on lawyers to constantly fight the league for transgressions across a wide spectrum.

"Look at the amount of money being spent on legal fees for a handful of people," he told ESPN. "It's millions and millions of dollars, and we've got players who are hurting. We've got young men who don't know how to identify a good financial adviser. Men are in transition who aren't doing well, and yet $8–10 million a year is spent in court fees about who should make a decision on someone, who in some cases has committed a crime.

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"Think about that logically. Wouldn't it be better to spend our time and resources on the issues that are vital to our players — past, present, and future — such as the players' total wellness and growing the game together?"

Vincent, now head of Football Operations for the league, recommended to Goodell that Brady be suspended four games after the Wells report was completed.

"Somebody has to protect the integrity of the game," Vincent said. "That's my responsibility, to protect and preserve the competitive fairness of professional football. That's why our game is so great, because we protect the integrity of the game."

So in one corner, the NFL is tasked with protecting the game. In the other, the NFLPA works to protect its players. But when Tom Brady is involved in a fight, good, bad, or indifferent, it's usually smart to bet on him. Because the NFL seems to always lose these things.

And Brady just wins, wins, wins.

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