Tom Brady wins. Roger Goodell loses.
So when does Bob Kraft reverse himself once more and go after the NFL to reclaim the $1 million fine and loss of two draft picks? If Brady can win in court, why not the Patriots? Kraft last month said he made a mistake when he accepted the historic Deflategate punishments.
Judge Richard Berman finally issued his decision in Brady vs. the NFL Thursday morning, and the federal court justice vacated the Patriot quarterback’s four-game suspension. The NFL will appeal this ruling, and it’s possible the decision will be overturned by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. We assume this will consume more months, years, and millions of billable hours.
Meanwhile, Patriot Nation rejoices and Brady plays.
Brady was at Gillette Stadium before the Patriots’ final preseason game Thursday night, but wasn’t in uniform. The big news is Brady is going to be in Foxborough next Thursday for the season opener, when the Super Bowl banner is raised.
That promises to be a triumphant local sports moment, on a par with Charles Lindbergh’s parade through New York’s Canyon of Heroes after Lucky Lindy returned from his historic flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
There is great glee in Foxborough. It’s another championship day for Brady, Bill Belichick, Bob and Jon Kraft, and The Wells Report In Context. Judge Berman has validated and vindicated Brady, while thoroughly spanking Goodell and the NFL’s punishing process.
Prior to public hearings in New York, Judge Berman warned us not to read too much into his line of questioning. This led some to believe that the judge was going to rule in favor of the NFL despite his repeated beatdowns of the league and the Wells Report during the hearings.
It turns out the judge was telling us exactly how he felt and how he was going to rule. He did not think the NFL played fair with Brady.
The blundering NFL believed it had the law on its side. Goodell & Co. believed that Article 46 of the collective bargaining agreement — the clause that permits the commissioner to be judge, jury, and executioner regarding player punishments — would prevail in federal court. Berman disagreed. Strongly.
Some pretty good sources claimed Brady was willing to settle for a one-game suspension if it involved no admission of guilt regarding a “scheme” to deflate footballs. We may never know if Brady was willing to take a game (put me in the camp that believes Brady never would have taken a game), but if it was offered, the NFL should have grabbed it.
Instead, the league overreached. And lost. Big time.
So again I ask, what about going for total victory?
When charges were first issued, Bob Kraft arrived at the Super Bowl and demanded an apology. He said the controversy was a crisis “driven by media leaks.’’ He said that if the investigation did not disclose that the Patriots tampered with footballs, “I would expect and hope the league would apologize to our team and to coach Belichick and Tom Brady for what they have had to endure.’’
That was before the 243-page Wells Report exploded in full fury across NFL America. That was before the harsh penalties were levied.
In May, Kraft turtled at the owners meetings at the Ritz in San Francisco. He said, “I’m going to accept reluctantly what he has given to us and not continue this dialogue and rhetoric, and we won’t appeal . . . At no time should the agenda of one team outweigh the collective good of the full 32.’’
Patriots fans were furious with their owner.
Then came Brady’s appeal, and Goodell’s stubborn and unfair (in the eyes of a judge) upholding of the four-game suspension.
Kraft changed his mind after that. On the day before Patriots training camp opened at the end of July, Kraft said, “I was wrong to put my faith in the league . . . I first and foremost need to apologize to our fans because I truly believed what I did in May, given the actual evidence of the situation and the league’s history on discipline matters, would make it much easier for the league to exonerate Tom Brady. Unfortunately, I was wrong.’’
On that same day, Brady wrote this on his Facebook page: “I did nothing wrong, and no one in the Patriots organization did either.’’
Now a federal judge has ruled that Goodell was unfair in his punishment of Brady. He has poked holes in the Wells Report and mocked the dunces who made this case for the NFL.
So why wouldn’t Kraft go for another big win?
“I have come to the conclusion that this was never about doing what was fair and just,’’ Kraft said in July. “I had to make a difficult decision that I now regret. I tried to do what I thought was right; I chose not to take legal action.’’
Why not now? The Patriots have Goodell dizzy and staggering on the ropes. Why not go back to court for the cash, and the picks, and the team’s reputation? Why not go for a knockout — complete and total victory?
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at email@example.com