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NFL's Appeal of Tom Brady's Deflategate Suspension Won't Be Heard Until 2016

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIISeptember 29, 2015

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 12:  New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady leaves federal court after appealing the National Football League's (NFL) decision to suspend him for four games of the 2015 season on August 12, 2015 in New York City. The NFL alleges that Brady knew footballs used in one of last season's games was deflated below league standards, making it easier to handle.  (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

The NFL story that won't abate may at long last be reaching a final resolution, but expect legal minutia and additional mind-numbing subplots before such a reality materializes sometime in the next calendar year.

ESPN.com news services reported Tuesday that the NFL's appeal of the reversal of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's Deflategate suspension will be heard no sooner than Feb. 1, 2016.

The league and the NFL Players Association successfully requested to expedite the appeal hearing Tuesday. The NFL must file its opening brief by Oct. 26, whereupon the NFLPA and Brady's legal team have until Dec. 7 to respond. Then the NFL has until Dec. 21 to counter.

Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated weighed in on the updated timeline:     

Michael McCann @McCannSportsLaw

While court arguments could occur days before Super Bowl, Tom Brady would not "have to" attend. Only 3 judges + lawyers will do the talking.

Brady was initially banned for four games after the league deemed the Ted Wells investigation enough to exact discipline on the four-time Super Bowl champion. This matter was disputed all the way to federal court, where a judge ruled in Brady's favor to overturn the suspension.

Yet here the NFL is, still attempting to cast Brady in a bad light. The quarterback is meanwhile spearheading a stellar Lombardi Trophy defense to date in 2015. Through three contests, Brady has thrown for an average of 370.7 yards per game and has nine touchdowns to zero interceptions.

It's somewhat reminiscent of Brady's phenomenal 2007 season after the Spygate rules fiasco that engulfed New England then. But Brady is not letting himself look ahead to a premature coronation of any sort, as he discussed on sports radio WEEI (h/t ESPN.com's Mike Reiss):

There is so much football left and there are so many things that can happen. We're not even a quarter of the way through the season, so it’s way too early to think about anything. We have so many quality opponents and teams that we’re playing, especially on the road. You never know.

The Patriots certainly look the part of Super Bowl favorites. Distracting as the Deflategate saga has been amid their recent success, at least it doesn't appear as though Brady will be threatened with a suspension until after the team's presumptive next run through the playoffs.  

While NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Co. attempt to undermine Brady at a deliberate pace, he's positioned New England atop the AFC East with a 3-0 record, on course for a 12th division crown in the past 13 years.

According to McCann, a settlement can be reached before the appeal date. Such an outcome seems like a remote possibility given the two sides' refusal to budge on the issue.

But the longer this case drags on with Brady playing at a high level, the less legitimate it seems to accuse one of the best QBs of all time of gaining a significant competitive advantage in last year's AFC title game.

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