ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning to discuss possible outcomes in the Deflategate appeal hearing. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Florio noted that as a federal judge, Berman has his job for life, and he likely isn’t worried about how his decision will be received. However, he undoubtedly wants to avoid having his ruling revoked upon appeal. That might lead him to find a middle ground that both sides would be willing to accept.
“He can do whatever he wants as long as he’s not concerned about being potentially reversed on appeal,” Florio said. “And my point is this: Apart from what the law would allow — and I think he would be reversed on appeal if he would try to find a way to cut this in half by surmising that two of the games of the suspension were for general awareness or whatever of the alleged deflation scheme, and the other two games were for failure to cooperate with the NFL’s investigation. If he would try to do that, but no one would appeal it, it doesn’t matter if it’s something that he’s not — air quotes — allowed to do within the confines of the law.”
Added Florio: “I was on radio yesterday … talking about what I see as the four options, and that’s one of the theoretical options. And as I was talking more about it, it hit me: Now, wait a minute. If no one appeals, it doesn’t matter. He can do whatever he wants if no one appeals. So it stops being a legal issue and it becomes a potential PR issue. If Tom Brady is willing to accept two games for failure to cooperate, exoneration of anything related to the alleged deflation scheme and his knowledge, involvement, whatever, if he just says, ‘I want this to be done, I’ll take the two games, I’m not going to appeal,’ it puts the NFL in a tough, tough spot.”
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Florio said Berman might feel comfortable based on his discussions with the two sides that this is something that would best satisfy everyone.
“We don’t know much about what’s been said behind closed doors,” Florio said. “But this judge has been on the bench for 17, 18 years, practiced law for decades before that. Through the hours of meeting with these folks, my guess is he would have been able to glean some sense of how strident, of how determined — and the NFL is very determined on this. But the NFL would be in a very tough spot if Tom Brady doesn’t appeal. I mean, everybody wants this to be over. The fans want this to be over.
“This ruling, in theory, comes out less than a week, or roughly a week before the first game of the regular season. Everybody wants to clear the decks of the Deflategate stuff. Here’s a ruling from the judge splitting the baby in half, two-game suspension. Tom Brady says, ‘I’m fine with it if the NFL is fine with it.’ And what’s the NFL do with that? The NFL’s backed into a corner at that point. From a PR standpoint, how does the NFL say, ‘No, we choose to prolong this even more. We don’t think two games is enough. We want four games, and dammit, we’re going to keep pushing for more.’ ”
Flora said in this sense Brady’s case is comparable to that of Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy, who was charged with domestic abuse and initially suspended 10 games before his punishment was dropped to four games on appeal.
“What made me think of this was the Greg Hardy situation. Greg Hardy fought to have his suspension reduced from 10 games to four games, and he was determined to get it down to two games, because the NFLPA firmly believes that he only should have been suspended two games under the personal conduct policy that was in place when the conduct happened. You have to separate what you think of what Greg Hardy did from what the rules were at the time the conduct happened.
“But Greg Hardy and the NFLPA never pushed in court, because I think from a PR standpoint it becomes a potential debacle if you are perceived as going to court to get more than what the general public thinks you should be getting. And that’s what the NFL would have to consider here. And I think there is a chance, as hard-headed as the NFL has been throughout this, there’s a chance the NFL, faced with that choice of being the one to keep this going — Brady’s ready to walk away — the NFL, faced with the choice of being the one to keep this going, very well may say, ‘We just don’t want to do this.’ ”
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