The appeal hearing for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension begins this week. It presumably will end this week, either on Tuesday the 23rd or Thursday the 25th. But the conclusion of the hearing will represent the beginning of a broader effort to get a final decision on Brady’s status before Thursday, September 10, when the Patriots host the Steelers to start the season.
Article 46 of the labor deal requires a decision on Brady’s appeal to be issued “as soon as practicable” after the hearing ends. For Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy, “as soon as practicable” has translated to a delay of 23 days and counting. For Brady, whose appeal is being handled personally by Commissioner Roger Goodell, it’s unclear how long it will be until a decision is issued.
If Goodell does anything other than wipe the suspension off the books entirely, Brady and the NFL Players Association presumably will fight the outcome in court, challenging the outcome of the arbitration under a very high legal standard that will make it difficult but not impossible for Brady to prevail.
But what if Goodell takes a month to issue a decision and the court in which the legal attack is pursueddoesn’t move quickly enough to resolve the case by September 10? At some point, Brady will have to decide whether to make a StarCaps-style effort to delay the implementation of the suspension until the case ends.
A successful effort to suspend the suspension could in theory result in Brady missing games not at the start of the season, but in November or December.
Once the hearing ends, Brady and the Patriots will have to plan for the possibility that a final ruling from court won’t come before September 10. Ultimately, there’s a chance Brady will be available for Week One and beyond, but eventually not available for a chunk of the season later in the calendar.
The Patriots may not prefer that outcome, which could prompt the team to advise Brady to miss the games while continuing the fight for exoneration. But Brady surely won’t be wired to stand down, putting the Patriots in the position of having to have Jimmy Garoppolo ready to go at any given moment once the season begins.
There’s also a chance Brady won’t miss any games this year. If the lower court rules against him and he persuades an appeals court to continue to prevent the NFL from suspending him until the case is final, Brady eventually would miss games not in 2015 but in 2016.