The Deflategate circus continues to drag on this week, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell still waiting to release his verdict on Tom Brady's appeal from over a month ago. As we've seen numerous times this spring and into the summer, the void of a decision was filled once again by leaked reports, this time that Brady was negotiating with the NFL over a settlement.
That report was then undermined by another source saying the NFLPA had submitted a settlement proposal to the NFL, but heard nothing back.
This is all par for the course with Deflategate. As the official word from the NFL front office remains silence, those working behind the scenes through the media are the ones driving the perception on the story.
It didn't take long for the media to pounce on the latest settlement report, viewing acceptance of any penalty as an admission of guilt by Brady.
This is unavoidable now for Brady. He has no choice but to take the NFL to court unless his entire punishment is absolved. And with NFL owners reportedly lobbying for the commissioner to keep Brady's entire four-game suspension intact, it's unlikely that the Goodell will let Brady off scott-free regardless of how compelling a case he made in June behind closed doors.
It's understandable why Brady might consider accepting a game fine. For one, money is not an issue to him, and two, it removes all uncertainty from Brady suiting up for the entire 2015 season and effectively puts the whole thing behind him and the team, avoiding an unwanted distraction spilling over into another year.
If Brady does take the NFL to court, his chances of having the entire punishment wiped out are good, however they wouldn't be certain. He'd immediately need to get an injunction to stay his suspension until a judge could hear the case. Again, this could happen quickly, but you never know when putting it in the hands of the court.
Getting that initial injunction would be the key, because given the NFL's track record when they're taken to court, Brady would likely get a favorable ruling. But still, the proceedings would drag into the fall and remain an issue for the Patriots as they embark on their Super Bowl title defense.
Robert Kraft's capitulation on the team's punishment already set the table for the "acceptance is admission of guilt" crowd, Brady cannot go down that same road or those voices will become louder and permanent.
It's hard to imagine how the NFL could've handled Deflategate much worse. At every turn they've been internally undermined by leaks that drove the public perception, and there seems to be an entire set of sources looking to make things look as bad for Brady and the Patriots as they can.
This all leaves Brady no choice. His owner fell on his sword and apparently won no goodwill from the league or the public. Brady must fight to uncover the truth behind what's going on behind the scenes at the NFL and why Deflategate has been inflated into one of the sports crimes of the century.
Clearing his name completely in a court of law is the only way to preserve what's left of his legacy.