Last week, the NFLPA approached the NFL to discuss a possible settlement that would reduce Tom Brady’s Ballghazi suspension —and keep the union from taking the league to court. At the time, the NFL didn’t want to hear it. That’s apparently changed.
- It would reduce Tom Brady’s suspension from four games, though by all accounts, the NFL would not accept a deal that eliminated a suspension altogether.
- It would not require Brady to admit guilt. Brady has maintained his innocence both in public and in private, and Brady would not accept anything that required him to admit responsibility or knowledge for the Patriots deflating footballs.
- It would require the NFLPA to agree not to sue the league over the decision. The union has spent a lot on legal fees in recent years, while the NFL is eager to avoid the risk of losing face and authority if it loses another court case over discipline.
ESPN claims that a settlement is “unlikely,” mostly due to the first criteria. Brady would reportedly be willing to accept a fine for his refusal to comply with Ted Wells’s investigation, but a suspension—of any length—is out of the question for him. The NFL would almost certainly refuse to completely exonerate him. To let Brady off at this point, after spending so much money and time on an investigation, would be an embarrassment for the NFL’s disciplinary machine, and open Roger Goodell up to criticism from other owners who believe the Patriots have long received preferential treatment from the league.
Whatever happens, it’s highly likely to happen very soon—say, in the next two days. Patriots training camp begins on Thursday, and Brady has already reported. Today makes five weeks since Brady’s hearing; the only thing holding up Goodell’s decision appears to be these settlement talks. New England obviously wants to know who its Week 1 quarterback will be, and the NFL doesn’t want Ballghazi to linger into the coming league year. Of course, if Brady takes the NFL to court, it could linger much longer than that.