Tom Brady Suspension Could Be Increased, Roger Goodell Warns In New ‘Deflategate’ Court Filing

After lawyers for Tom Brady filed a scathing legal brief slamming the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell for running a “smear campaign” against the star New England Patriots quarterback and publishing “propaganda” against him in the league’s 20-page decision upholding Brady’s four-game “Deflategate” suspension, the NFL hit back with a document that contained a startling and incendiary warning that may reveal what lies at the heart of the now seven-month conflict.

As reported by Mike Florio of the NBC Pro Football Talk site, the NFL is now claiming that it holds the authority not only to uphold the bizarre four-game ban on Brady, but also to actually make the punishment even more severe, if Goodell so chooses.

The assertion that Goodell has the authority to increase Brady’s penalty could be seen as a power-grab on the part of the NFL commissioner — an implied threat to Brady that if he doesn’t drop his legal action now, he risks a more harsh suspension, possibly five or six games, if he loses in federal court.

An increased suspension would not only serve as a punitive measure against Brady for daring to challenge Goodell’s authority to dole out discipline regardless of evidence, but as a form of intimidation against future players who may consider taking the league to court over Goodell’s seemingly arbitrary discipline decisions.

Citing the provision of the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association, stating that in the case of fines for “unsportsmanlike conduct on the playing field” the league may not increase a punishment once it has been set, the NFL’s brief filed Friday, August 14, says that the restriction does not apply to Goodell’s ability to protect the “integrity” of the NFL.

“The CBA imposes no such limitation on the Commissioner’s decision in appeals such as this one involving discipline imposed under Article 46, Section 1(a) for conduct detrimental to the integrity of the game,” NFL attorneys wrote in the document filed in federal court.

The inclusion of that claim in the NFL’s brief may appear puzzling at first, because Goodell did not attempt to increase the four-game suspension of Brady — even though in that 20-page July 29 ruling, Goodell did, in fact, increase the charges against Brady. But seen as an intimidation tactic to force Brady into an unfavorable settlement, the inclusion of the strange assertion starts to make more sense.

That July 29 ruling was the document in which Goodell initially accused Brady of deliberately “destroying” a cell phone, and of acting as a direct participant in a conspiracy to illegally deflate game footballs.

The Ted Wells investigation of Brady, on which Goodell based his four-game penalty, made no such claims, making no mention of a destroyed phone and accusing Brady of being only “generally aware” of ball-deflation activities. And even that assertion, Wells’ report said, was not fully backed by evidence, but only “more probable than not.”

In the legal brief filed Friday, the NFL doubled down on its claim that Brady was not only “generally aware” but, in the league’s words, “knew about, approved, consented to, and provided inducements in support of tampering” with footballs.

The NFLPA, representing Tom Brady, noted in its own brief that the league had failed to produce a single shred of evidence to support its claim of a conspiracy involving Brady, either in the Wells report, or at Brady’s 10-hour appeal hearing on June 23.

[Image: Andrew Burton/Getty Images]