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Five days until Patriots QB Tom Brady's appeal: 5 reasons it could be successful & 5 reasons it might not

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Patriots QB Tom Brady's appeal is coming up in five days, on June 23 and it is clear his goal is to have the entire suspension vacated. Is there a chance that might happen?

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When allegations surfaced after the January 18, 2015 playoff game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts that star quarterback Tom Brady was using an underinflated ball, it was clear from the team's response that they were assuming the story would disappear. Bill Belichick was characteristically taciturn, while Tom Brady uncomfortably denied any knowledge about the incident. Instead of disappearing, the story has exploded, providing a source of football news in the long offseason, putting Patriots fans on the defensive, and delighting haters of Tom Brady and his team.

After an investigation and the release of the Wells report, which seemed to provide near-conclusive evidence that Brady was guilty of these allegations, it was announced that Brady would face a four-game suspension, and his team a large fine and draft picks in 2017.  Team owner Kraft reluctantly accepted the consequences, while Brady announced his intent to appeal.

Now, exactly five months from the playoff game that sparked the investigation into the Deflategate scandal, the appeal-- which Roger Goodell himself will hear-- is only five days away. I'm examining five reasons Brady could succeed in seeing his sentence vacated, and five reasons it could stand.

Five reasons the suspension could be completely vacated:

1) When Robert Kraft spoke to the media earlier in the month, he left the door open for Brady's return to the field, saying via The Boston Globe about Brady's suspension, "It's our hope that opening game here that we'll have the privilege of having everyone who deserves to be on the field starting that game. I know that's what our fans want and what we want."

2) Roger Goodell left the door open for a change in punishment during the appeals process, saying in May, via NBC, "I look forward to hearing directly from Tom if there's new information... information that can be helpful to us getting this right."  Could the AEI report be considered new evidence since it outlined alleged statistical errors in the Wells report? Is there a way Brady could provide some phone records and be cleared?

3) Goodell's punishment of Brady does not seem to fit within existing NFL guidelines. The times Goodell has been arbitrary-- Bountygate, Ray Rice domestic violence situation to name two examples- it hasn't gone very well for him and the league. Brett Favre received only a fine for not cooperating with an NFL investigation. So, even if he remains recalcitrant and does not turn over his phone, Brady could argue that a suspension of any length is unfair. Since tampering with game balls carries a fine for the team, not individual players, arbitrariness could come into play here as well.

4) The Patriots accepted their punishment without an appeal, leading to speculation that perhaps Goodell and Kraft had struck a backroom deal to overturn Brady's punishment. Certainly both men in comments to the media have not ruled out the possibility of Brady returning to the field for week 1.

5) There are some problems with the Wells report that Brady could use to his advantage. The biggest problem is that the evidence, while extremely convincing, is circumstantial.  The NFLPA's mid-May document outlining Brady's case  called the Wells report "a legally inadequate basis upon which to impose this unprecedented discipline."  And speaking of "legal," the Supreme Court of Missouri just  ruled that Goodell cannot serve as arbitrator over employee matters. While this decision is only valid for the Rams and Chiefs, does Goodell want to risk being dragged to court and undermined again?

There are also reasons to expect that Goodell will not vacate or reduce Brady's sentence:

1) Brady did not cooperate with the investigation, and athletes have been punished for that before.

2) While the punishment for tampering with equipment can include merely a fine, Goodell is punishing Brady based on conduct detrimental to the league policies, through which he has much more flexibility and leeway in determining a punishment.

3) The Wells report contained some very damning evidence between the text messages, the bag of balls spending some private time in the bathroom right before the game (enough time for the Deflator to deflate them), and the fact that Brady has stated his preference is for his footballs to be on the underinflated side of the spectrum. Even if it is circumstantial, it does not paint a flattering picture of Brady or the Patriots organization.

4) Goodell really might not care about going to court. It's happened before, and he's lived to tell the tale-- and continued on as commissioner. If the case does go to court, Brady could have more to lose since courts have subpoena power that the NFL investigators did not have.

5) A lot of fans would be pissed. Does Goodell care about that? He did in the case of Ray Rice, and caved to public outcry over his initial two-game suspension for domestic violence caught on tape. If people believe Brady cheated (and most non-Patriots fans share that belief), and he receives no punishment, the integrity of the game would be compromised. Assumptions of cheating and unfair play hurt the NFL's bottom line.

These two lists are not exhaustive, but they do show that it is a tough call in terms of Brady's suspension. Goodell could split the difference and reduce the sentence to two games, but with Brady going for complete exoneration, that could still result in the kind of legal action Goodell might prefer to avoid.

How will this go down? Well, since arbitrariness is one of Goodell's signature traits, there is no way of knowing. And that is a problem in and of itself.