Only Tom Brady could upstage franchise tag deadline day in the NFL. But the way in which he did it might please many people.
On Friday, the New England Patriots quarterback announced on his Facebook page that he’s no longer going to fight the NFL over his four-game suspension for the deflate-gate saga.
Those hoping for an end to this almost 18-month ordeal can breathe easily. Deflate-gate, for all intents and purposes, is over.
I’m very grateful for the overwhelming support I’ve received from Mr. Kraft, the Kraft family, coach Belichick, my coaches and teammates, the NFLPA, my agents, my loving family and most of all, our fans. It has been a challenging 18 months and I have made the difficult decision to no longer proceed with the legal process. I’m going to work hard to be the best player I can be for the New England Patriots and I look forward to having the opportunity to return to the field this fall.
The NFL, which spent millions of dollars in billable hours to prosecute one of the iconic faces of the game and uphold the suspension through various appeals, now can take its proper victory lap.
The NFLPA, which was supporting Brady in his legal fight against the NFL, also issued a statement on the matter a short time later:
Patriots owner Robert Kraft also chimed in. To the surprise of no one, Kraft issued a lengthy statement of support for Brady while also getting in a few more shots at the NFL, the courts and anyone assuming his quarterback remains guilty of squeezing footballs too hard.
But Brady’s decision comes as a shocker to some. Brady has the option to petition the Supreme Court for a stay on the ruling that went against him in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the union’s statement makes it clear that they have not closed the door on that. But Brady’s statement sounds like he has opted to punt on what appeared to be fourth down in his options for right now.
Some believed he would exhaust all means to clear his name in what he likely believed was the NFL attempting to make an example of him. After all, Brady staunchly has maintained his innocence in the matter of the deflated balls since the AFC title game in 2015 against the Indianapolis Colts. But the NFL and its lawyers roundly have appeared to be one step ahead of the quarterback and the NFLPA — both in the real courts and the court of public opinion — in the prolonged process since then.
But it’s clear that this graduated from deflated footballs many moons ago. This case was now more about the collective-bargaining agreement and Roger Goodell’s powers to enforce discipline that in essence rendered Brady and his team powerless to a degree. When Brady’s appeal was denied, it was not an indication of guilt — just as Brady stepping down on Friday was not an admission of such. It was rather another instance of a CBA that appears to give Goodell power he perhaps shouldn’t wield without checks and balances elsewhere in the league’s power structure.
Brady now will sit out the Patriots’ first four games and yet won’t get hit too hard in the wallet despite that. It will be his first missed games since suffering a torn ACL early in the 2008 season. The NFL will open up in Week 1 without Peyton Manning or Brady playing quarterback for the first time since the 1998 season.
The Patriots open the season with a tough game at the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1 and follow that with three home games — against the Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills. That means Brady will not be facing two division rivals or his former offensive coordinator, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, or Brady’s former teammate, pass rusher Chandler Jones, who was traded to the Cardinals in the offseason.
Brady can return to action in Week 5 against the Cleveland Browns. He can practice and play with no limitations during the preseason up until Week 1.
Jimmy Garoppolo, who has never started an NFL game, will take over as the starter — something he prepared for prior to 2015 with Brady’s status similarly up in the air a year ago — with rookie Jacoby Brissett as the likely. No. 2.
A former second-round pick out of Eastern Illinois, Garoppolo has completed 20-of-31 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown with five sacks taken, mostly in mop-up duty for Brady, over his two pro seasons.
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