With the Ravens being so closely tied to this suspension, I had the privilege of sitting down with Mr Alan Milstein of the Law Firm of Sherman Silverstein to discuss the Wells Report, the suspension and likely subsequent court case if Brady doesn't get his way. You might remember the name if you are a legal buff as he has battled the NFL and Roger Goodell once before in court. As the primary member of Maurice Clarett's legal team, Milstein crafted a great argument in favor of Clarett being allowed to enter the draft despite sanctions against him from the NCAA.
Getting a lawyer's opinion on the case is very important because I'm not a lawyer and my opinion on the matter is purely guess work. We get a chance to see what will likely go down if Brady is suspended and if the Union decides to fight the battle in court.
BB: Let's start with the Patriots. They got a major punishment; they were fined $1 million and docked two draft picks. a first rounder in 2016 and a fourth rounder in 2015. With rumors that the Ravens notified the NFL about the balls being deflated the previous week, could the Patriots go after the league for what was essentially a sting operation, instead of them following their normal operating procedure?AM: No, the Patriots could have appealed the suspensions, the fine and the loss of draft picks, but they chose to not appeal. The odd thing is that the rulebook states that the penalty for under-inflated balls is $25,000, so how it was escalated to $1 million with the loss of draft picks is a bit excessive. But the Patriots decided to not do what Brady did and go to arbitration. The Patriots have basically taken the penalty and that is it.BB: Getting more to Tom Brady since that seems to be the big story right now... Most people have held a normal 9-5 job and understand breaking a rule in the company's handbook could get you suspended or fired. With the NFL being Brady's employer technically, couldn't the league lay down a suspension at their leisure with whatever evidence they wish to use as long as it is against the employee handbook, like cheating or deflating the balls would be?AM: It is not in the rulebook. It's a rule that says that if there is a situation where the balls are under-inflated, the team will be penalized $25,000. There is nothing in the ruled that states that players will be penalized for under-inflated balls. So that is Brady's main argument other than the fact that the Commissioner shouldn't be the arbitrator. One of his main arguments is that the rule does not implicate players as offending parties.BB: The league also did a good job that the suspension was due to fact that Brady and his representation didn't assist completely with the investigation. Wouldn't that be on it's own, outside of the ball inflation, enough for a suspension to stand? Maybe not 4 games, but some level of a suspension.AM: I don't think so. I don't think the league did a good job with anything with respect to this specific incident. You are a Ravens fan and Ray Rice got suspended two games for punching the lights out of his wife, or fiancee, and Brady gets suspended four games for throwing under-inflated footballs? I mean it's absurd.BB: I completely agree with you on that. Going back to Ray Rice, he eventually did get an indefinite suspension, which was overturned, because you can't just jack up a suspension.AM: I was in favor of Ray Rice having that second suspension lifted, because even though I think the commissioner was wrong in saying two games, once you say two games, you can't change your mind because the public thinks it's too light.BB: I completely agree with that.AM: If he thought long and hard about it and said two games is the right suspension, how is four games right for throwing under-inflated footballs?BB: I think that goes to the fan's biggest argument about Roger Goodell is that he is judge, jury, executioner. All of his suspension don't seem to line up. There is no standard for what is happening. Someone will get suspended an entire season for a little pot use, while someone gets suspended for under-inflated footballs, and someone else gets two games for punching their fiancee and knocking them out. There seems to be no rhyme or reason. Is that something that the players association should try and take the league to court on?I think that is why the players association is trying to push Brady to go to court. Whatever happens in the arbitration. By that, what I mean is it is very likely that the commissioner is going to reduce his own four games down to two games or one game or maybe even one half. If he does that, it might not be in Tom Brady's best interest to take the league to court, but the players association would like him to take the league to court.BB: That makes sense. Try and get something out of it in order to help all of their players.AM: The New England Patriots have a history of going it alone. That's why they are the best team in football for the last, five years.
BB: If you are Tom Brady and the league comes to you and says "1 game. We're going to take it away down to 1 game and not really fine you, let's just hash it out now." Do you kinda take that and just think "it's just a game, I just don't have to deal with it and we know what's coming," because obviously with any legal battle, you don't know, I'm sure you feel you will win if you are Tom Brady, but you don't know when that decision is going to come down. It could be mid-season or it could be right in the playoffs and if it doesn't go your way, that would suck to be missing during the playoffs. Do you maybe just take that one game and go "whatever?"
AM: Except that he has his legacy that he's concerned about. I think an argument could be made both ways, but It's really the Union that needs to appeal, although they need Tom Brady's approval. I think whatever the suspension, he'll appeal. Because essentially, the rule is not supposed to apply to players, only teams, which makes sense. You can't blame the quarterback for an under-inflated football, why not blame the wide receiver.
BB: That's fair. I guess the argument that would be used and that we've seen with most fans is that the quarterback should know...
AM: What about the center? You don't think the center knows?
BB: That's a very good point, a very very good point. Yeah, hearing that type of argument, I could see Tom Brady, guilty or not, the punishment levied down was not exactly fair when we hear these types of arguments.
Alan Milstein is from Baltimore, so his respect for Tom Brady is not without a little hesitation. Though, Milstein admits that he has no ties to the Ravens since he was a die-hard Colts fan growing up. The best part of that conversation revolved around our discussion of Brady vs Unitas. A close battle for sure, but one with it's points for both quarterbacks.
AM: The real question is Tom Brady or John Unitas?
BB: In terms of best quarterback?
AM: In terms of best quarterback, that's the real question...BB: That's tough. I think you have to dock Brady and you have to dock the entire Patriots team for what ended up being SpyGate, fair or not on that incident. I think you gotta take at least a little bit away from Brady on that. Other than that, I'd say it's... Baltimore fans are going to hate me, but I'm going to have to say Brady. The guy's just won too much. I'd like to see him without Belichick.AM: He's a winner. There's no question that I think he's the greatest winner in the history of the NFL. He didn't change the game the way that Unitas changed the game.
BB: That's true, that's true. At the same time, you can also point to Bill Belichick being maybe Tom Brady's muse and being able to do a lot of stuff with or without Brady. It would be interesting to see if those two got separated and see how both of them did. I can see that argument going either way in that regard.AM: With two minutes to go, I'll take Unitas.
I'd take Unitas in the fourth quarter or in overtime as well. No one could will a win quite like that man. But there you have it, Brady will likely get completely off regardless of if he did or did not cheat. Now just comes the part where the league and Brady figure out what type of reduced punishment the league can still force on him and get out of a lawsuit with.