On the surface, free-agent kicker Jay Feely attended Monday’s settlement conference in his capacity as a member of the NFL Players Association’s Executive Committee. At a deeper level, Feely may have served a more important purpose in connection with the interests of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
As noted last month, the NFLPA’s initial court filing challenging the Brady suspension pointed out that the NFL suspended a Jets equipment employee in 2009, after an attempt “to use unapproved equipment to prep the K[icking] Balls” in a game against (you guessed it) the Patriots. The NFL did not investigate or discipline the Jets kicker for “general awareness” or specific involvement in the attempted violation of the rules, even though the Jets kicker was the player most likely to benefit from the behavior and, in turn, the player most likely to be aware of the conduct.
Coincidentally, the Jets kicker at the time was Jay Feely.
The incident wasn’t mentioned during Monday’s proceedings in open court. It’s possible that the incident was discussed behind closed doors with Judge Richard M. Berman, given the similarities between the two situations.
In Feely’s case, investigating or disciplining the player wasn’t even considered, even though Feely may have known all about the infraction. (And, if he did, he could have shared his knowledge of the situation directly with Judge Berman.) For Brady, simply being the guy who benefited from an equipment violation made him the focal point of an investigation that, by all appearances, was a prosecution.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Judge Berman mentioned the 2009 incident in his written ruling on the Brady case. On Monday, he happened to have in his chambers the man who occupied the same position as Brady does in the present controversy.