With the NFL’s owners gathered in San Francisco for quarterly meetings, some important business potentially will be transacted over a large bowl of Rice-A-Roni.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the league and the Patriots are engaged in “back-channel conversations” to determine whether the league and the team can resolve their differences without an appeal or potential litigation.
These discussions presumably would apply only to the $1 million fine and the two draft picks stripped from the Patriots — a first-rounder in 2016 and a fourth-round selection in 2017. But those back-channel negotiations could result in a wink-nod understanding regarding a potential reduction in quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension by the league, along with a commitment by the Patriots to persuade Brady to accept the outcome without filing a lawsuit of his own.
The broader question for the NFL becomes whether fans and/or the media would react negatively to a deal, especially since so much of what the league currently does seems to be driven by P.R. considerations. The challenge would be selling the reduced penalties without admitting that independent investigator/special prosecutor Ted Wells and executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent got it wrong.
Ultimately, the manner in which the fans and/or the media will receive the explanation for reduced penalties will hinge on whether the reasons are plausible or whether they come off as spin control.
Which means that the spin control had better be plausible.