It’s unclear whether Judge Richard M. Berman made any progress on Wednesday in pushing the NFL and NFL Players Association toward a settlement of the Tom Brady suspension. It’s now clear that, before the parties went to court on Wednesday, the NFL had no real interest in settling.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL’s settlement position prior to Wednesday entailed Brady and the NFL agreeing to a laundry list of concessions regarding the Wells report and the NFL’s authority to suspend Brady and other players for conduct detrimental to the league and obstructing a league investigation. Then, after Brady and the NFLPA cried uncle, the NFL would discuss the terms of a reduced suspension.
It sounds a lot like the non-offer offer that was floated but not officially made while the appeal was pending before Commissioner Roger Goodell. Essentially, Brady would cry “uncle” and then the NFL would consider whether to reduce his suspension by two games, maybe three if he cries “uncle” convincingly enough.
It’s now clear that the league hopes to emerge from any settlement with what amounts to an enhancement of the labor deal that empowers the NFL to broadly interpret “conduct detrimental” in the future — and to suspend players who obstruct league investigations, even if that’s something the NFL has never previously done.
Regardless of the NFL’s planned use of any such concession going forward, it’s not a reasonable demand in this context. If the NFL repeated its demands in Judge Richard M. Berman’s “robing room” before Wednesday’s hearing, his decision to push the league’s lawyer a little harder than the union’s lawyer during the session in court seems more understandable.
Judge Berman may have done even more pushing behind the scenes after the public portion of the proceedings. In the end, some very heavy lifting may eventually be needed to get the NFL to make the kind of offer that can get the case settled. The terms demanded on Tuesday won’t even get the process started.