All Some eyes are on NFL headquarters in Manhattan this week, as the Tom Brady-Roger Goodell deflated footballs adventure takes its next step: Brady's appeal of the four-game suspension handed down by the league in the wake of the Wells Report on the possibility that the Patriots intentionally underinflated footballs during a playoff game in January.
Here is a quick rundown on what's going on at 345 Park Ave.
The entire Deflategate saga has been a joke, so it's fitting that the scene outside NFL headquarters Tuesday was something out of an Onion article.
Patriots fans congregated alongside and in front of the bevy of news cameras. They held signs that read "Free Brady" and "The Foxboro Witch Trials." One man reportedly told his boss he couldn't work because he had to take care of a "family" issue.
Singing songs and carrying signs pic.twitter.com/MgX2JXIGAQ— Dan Shaughnessy (@Dan_Shaughnessy) June 23, 2015
It's past 9:30 and no signs of Goodell or Ted Wells. Probably safe to say they went in through a side/underground entrance, too— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) June 23, 2015
Brady entered the headquarters through the side door to avoid the media out front pic.twitter.com/nblQopeiAn— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) June 23, 2015
A photo posted by @benvolin on Jun 23, 2015 at 6:00am PDT
The Ebony Hillbillies also made an appearance.
A video posted by @benvolin on Jun 23, 2015 at 9:39am PDT
OK, so it's not really a courtroom. It's actually nothing like a courtroom, and it's not a trial, though the proceedings have taken on a decidedly litigious dynamic.
The thing about the Brady case is it's shining a light on the NFL's appeal process unlike any other in the league's history, one that is normally shrouded in mystery. People don't usually care -- especially to this degree -- when a player appeals his punishment.
Video: Jeffrey Kessler's opening statement on behalf of Brady https://t.co/IBkCitUm16— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) June 23, 2015
University of New Hampshire law professor and Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann told Boston sports talk radio station WEEI that the dealings Tuesday were going to be more "business meeting" than "trial," more fluid conversation than formal presentation of evidence.
"There's really no back-and-forth at the same time," a league source told Volin. "The appellant makes their case, then the league makes theirs, then the appellant gets to rebut it, then the league gets another chance, then both sides have closing arguments, and that's pretty much it."
Joining Brady, according to Volin, was agent Don Yee, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and a few lawyers, including the NFLPA's Jeffrey Kessler. That group was expected to point to the Wells Reports' faulty science and the fact that it never came close to proving Brady was at all involved.
With the NFL was Adolpho Birch, the NFL's senior vice president of labor policy and government affairs, and several lawyers. They were expected to simply point to the Wells Report and remind Goodell that Brady wasn't exactly helpful during the process.
Ted Wells -- who ran the NFL's four-month, $5 million investigation into the possibly slightly deflated footballs -- was also expected to be present.
One of the biggest differences between this appeal -- a private matter between an employer (the NFL) and a union (the NFLPA) -- and a trial is that it is indeed private. Or supposed to be. There are no cameras in the room and no reporters live-tweeting, so any information that comes out is a leak -- and since it's the NFL, there are plenty of leaks.
Thus, perjury is on the table. An arbitrator can tell prosecutors if a witness knowingly make false statements. https://t.co/fs6qfOwQaQ— Bob McGovern (@BobMcGovernJr) June 23, 2015
Defense team of Tom Brady was given 4 hours today to present its entire case. Proceedings expected to wrap today, not continue Thursday.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 23, 2015
@ProFootballTalk There is no strict 4-hour time limit on the TB team's presentation and it is expected to go beyond that.— Greg Aiello (@gregaiello) June 23, 2015
One bizarre dynamic was that of Goodell himself. While he commissioned Wells to investigate, then approved of Brady's punishment before it became official, Goodell was technically an independent third party, the de facto judge in this pseudo-trial, as mentioned.
"[Brady's] union gave the commissioner almost unlimited authority to regulate player conduct," McCann told WEEI. "That is probably Goodell's best skill in this meeting, that he has this sweeping authority."
As of Tuesday afternoon, no one knew what Goodell's decision would be or when it would come. There was plenty of speculation, though.
Goodell's options seem to be:
• Don't change Brady's suspension and make him sit out four games.
• Lessen Brady's suspension to 1-3 games.
• Eliminate Brady's suspension.
No one in the know seems to think the third option is likely. There is some belief that if Brady was more forthcoming during the appeal than he was during Wells' investigation, Goodell will reduce the suspension.
If and when Brady's appeal is denied, it's possible the quarterback could take the NFL to federal court. The concern there, McCann told WEEI, is Brady would have no control over the schedule and it could result in his suspension taking effect midseason or later, even spilling over into 2016.
In other words, there is a very real chance this farce of a controversy isn't close to over.
* * *
Tim Healey is a contributor to Sports on Earth. Follow him on Twitter @timbhealey.