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Tom Brady on the field for week 1 against the Steelers? It's looking more likely

Amid growing speculation that Tom Brady's suspension could be reduced, the American Enterprise Institute has called into question key aspects of the Wells Report and concluded it was "unlikely" the Patriots deflated footballs.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) issued a report yesterday slamming the Wells report, and perhaps paving the way to a reduced or completely suspended punishment for the Patriots star quarterback alleged involvement in the illegal deflation of footballs.

AEI found the Wells report was flawed because of the statistical procedure used to determine that Patriots footballs had deflated significantly more than the Colts' during the course of the game that precipitated the original investigation. It also found Ted Wells failed to investigate all "relevant" scenarios related to the pressure of the footballs. One such scenario is ambient temperature and the timing of the pressure checks. Temperature is a factor the Patriots organization cited the wake of the initial accusations earlier in the year.

The authors of the report concluded, "It is therefore unlikely that the Patriots deflated the footballs." The AEI's report did not address the text messages cited in the Wells report that shed light on Brady's preferred ball pressure and gifts he may have been providing to staff members to deflate NFL gameday footballs. Nonetheless the authors of the AEI report wrote in a June 12 New York Times opinion piece, "When the NFL hears Mr. Brady's appeal of his suspension later this month, it should proceed with the knowledge that the Wells report is unreliable."

AEI is the same organization that found fault with the NFL's report on Bountygate, a scandal allegedly involved players from the New Orleans Saints were receiving bounties for injuring players from opposing teams. That particular report found that the Saints players injured fewer players than all but one team during the first year the bounty program was in place. It is important to note, that when Paul Tagliabue suspended the punishments of the players involved, he affirmed the original conclusions that players had indeed been involved in a payments-for-injury scheme. The reason the suspensions were overturned was because of Goodell's arbitrariness in determining a consequence.

The AEI report was released just in time for Brady's June 23 appeal hearing. Though there was other evidence in the Wells report that was not disputed by the AEI report, its findings could still strengthen Brady's case. There have also been several other indications beyond this latest report that Brady's suspension could be reduced or suspended. DeMaurice Smith of the NFLPA questioned the neutrality of the Wells report at the end of May while Commissioner Roger Goodell left the door open for a reduced sentence if Brady ended up being more cooperative or if new information came to light, per The AEI report could be the new information Goodell needs to justify reducing or eliminating Brady's suspension.

What does this mean for the first game of the regular season? June 23, the date of his appeal, should bring more concrete information. Until then, the odds are steadily increasing that Tom Brady will be on the field for the opening game against the Steelers.