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Tom Brady Suspension Upheld, Will Miss Cowboys Game Unless Federal Court Intervenes

Right now it looks like an advantage for Dallas, but the story is far from over.

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Will Tom Brady take the field against Dallas this season? It looks doubtful.
Will Tom Brady take the field against Dallas this season? It looks doubtful.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The fifth game of the season for the Dallas Cowboys is expected to be the first time the team will see Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain on the field as they will have served their four-game suspensions. That game will see the defending Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots, coming to AT&T Stadium. Having a couple of your better defenders joining the team can only help.

But in a quirk of scheduling, the fifth game for Dallas is only the fourth game for New England, since they have their bye prior to the game. That looks to be very important, because it has been announced that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has upheld the four-game suspension for Tom Brady in the now infamous deflategate case.

This may not be the last word, as both the league and the NFLPA are appealing this in federal court (and in different jurisdictions, as if this wasn't a big enough mess to begin with). While the four games are seen by many (especially Patriots fans) as a bit much for a fairly minor infraction, the statement from the league makes it clear that this is much more about a lack of cooperation from Brady.

In a statement, the NFL said that it had concluded that "Brady was aware of, and took steps to support‎, the actions of other team employees to deflate game footballs below the levels called for by the NFL's Official Playing Rules." The statement also alleged that Brady deliberately destroyed his cell phone to hide evidence:

"On or shortly before March 6, the day that Tom Brady met with independent investigator Ted Wells and his colleagues, Brady directed that the cell phone he had used for the prior four months be destroyed. He did so even though he was aware that the investigators had requested access to text messages and other electronic information that had been stored on that phone. During the four months that the cell phone was in use, Brady had exchanged nearly 10,000 text messages, none of which can now be retrieved from that device. The destruction of the cell phone was not disclosed until June 18, almost four months after the investigators had first sought electronic information from Brady."

This raises a real question about what Brady does not want seen on his phone records. It may be incriminating text messages, or it may be personal information that he does not want seen. The league has offered to have the texts reviewed by Brady's camp, and any that are not directly related to the situation in question withheld, but that was not acceptable (and may have been rendered moot by the destruction of the cell phone). While the records of the texts would still be available from the service provider, that can only be obtained by a subpoena, which was not an option while this was still an internal NFL matter.

The NFLPA and Brady have fired back. The main point of contention is that they claim the league had all the relevant text messages.

The fact that the NFL would resort to basing a suspension on a smoke screen of irrelevant text messages instead of admitting that they have all of the phone records they asked for is a new low, even for them, but it does nothing to correct their errors.

Someone is apparently lying about the situation, or at least there are widely varying interpretations of the facts. There were reports just prior to the decision from Goodell that Brady and the league were working towards a reduction of the suspension to one game. While there are some differing takes on how close they were to that, the sticking point is also interesting.

It looks like Brady may have ignored one of the most important lessons of recent history.

If Brady was innocent, if he'd had no role whatsoever in the deflation of footballs in the AFC Championship game, he doesn't destroy that cell phone. As everyone from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton can tell you, it's not the crime that kills you. It's the cover-up.

No matter how this winds up, it does not exactly help the image of either the NFL or Brady, except to those who have already come down firmly on one side or the other.

Now the Cowboys may be facing backup Jimmy Garoppolo, who was once a bit of a favorite here before he was drafted by the Patriots. He is an unknown quantity at the moment, but was seen to have been surprisingly good competition for Brady last year (and not just on the field, at least according to one report).

There is a bit of dismay that Brady is still slated to serve the same suspension as Hardy, for what is accurately deemed to be a much less significant thing. However, that entire controversy has always revolved around an erroneous comparison of criminal and civil law. Domestic violence is really an issue for the courts from the start. Hardy managed to get his case dismissed, reportedly by coming to a financial agreement with the victim. It may not have been an ideal outcome for her to put economics ahead of justice, but that cannot be changed at this point. The NFL has no real legal obligation to take any action over off-the-field issues of its players. It only does so to appease the customer base. That is a valid business decision on their part, but the execution of this policy has been one of the most inept things imaginable in the past couple of years. The Ray Rice case revealed that the league was not putting as much weight on assault issues as the public thought appropriate, and then the league tried to retroactively fix the issue. It may have been a good PR move, but it was not in accordance with civil law, which is the only law governing the relationship between the league, the franchises and the players. The league's hands were tied in the Hardy case to some extent. That is why the suspension was reduced to four games, not because of the relative severity of his case and Brady's.

Ironically, the deflategate situation is one where the league probably has much more latitude. It is strictly an internal affair with no overlap with the criminal code. They still face some problems with the arbitrary approach Goodell likes to take with things, but there is no semblance of double jeopardy as you had with Hardy's case. After those charges were dismissed, it is arguable that the league punished him over something that in purely legal terms no longer was in evidence. With Brady, the league is coming down hard on him for not being forthcoming, not just the actual PSI measurements of the footballs he was throwing. And no matter how stridently fans and the union may protest, Brady has not appeared willing to cooperate fully. That is the real reason for him still facing four games off the field.

The suspension could still be overturned or stayed, depending on what the courts decide. There is no way to predict what happens, since decisions from the bench often obey a logic that is beyond the understanding of people who are more comfortable operating with facts and common sense. But right now it looks like Brady will not be playing while Greg Hardy will. This story is still very much alive, and given all the possible courses it could take, it may be quite some time before it is truly resolved.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB

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