Tom Brady's Deflategate 4-Game Suspension Reinstated by US Court of Appeals

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots passes against the Denver Broncos  in the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

A United States appeals court reinstated New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's four-game suspension Monday, according to Reuters (via CNBC Now), which the NFL originally levied in the wake of the Deflategate scandal. 

The decision overturns U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman's decision to throw out that suspension and forces that court to confirm it, per Andrew Brandt of ESPN.

Will Brinson of CBS Sports shared the key excerpt from the appeals court's ruling:

Will Brinson @WillBrinson

Here’s the language from the ruling reinstating the Tom Brady suspension: https://t.co/R4F27Flv5K

While the NFL Players Association has maintained that Brady should simply be fined for an equipment infraction, per Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports, the court upheld NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's right to levy additional punishments against the quarterback.

However, the court did acknowledge that the commissioner's power was particularly broad, per Rand Getlin of NFL Network:

Rand Getlin @RandGetlin

Going to tweet out a few interesting passages from the newest Brady decision as I read through it. Starts here ... https://t.co/Sab7g5Hw1r

The dissenting judge in the ruling had strong words for Goodell, per Sean Leahy of the Boston Herald:

Sean Leahy @leahysean

Dissenting judge: Roger Goodell imposing 'his own brand of industrial justice' on Tom Brady https://t.co/8X0orlhx4l

On the other hand, the court essentially scolded Brady for destroying his cellphone, per Getlin: "Finally, any reasonable litigant would understand that the destruction of evidence, revealed just days before the start of the arbitration proceedings, would be an important issue."

The court added that it was fair to infer "a party who deliberately destroys relevant evidence the party had an obligation to produce did so in order to conceal damaging information from the adjudicator."

The NFL released a statement on the ruling, via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe:

We are pleased the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled today that the Commissioner properly exercised his authority under the collective bargaining agreement to act in cases involving the integrity of the game. That authority has been recognized by many courts and has been expressly incorporated into every collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFLPA for the past 40 years.

Garafolo later shared a statement from the NFLPA on the ruling:

The NFLPA is disappointed in the decision by the Second Circuit. We fought Roger Goodell's suspension of Tom Brady because we know he did not serve as a fair arbitrator and that players' rights were violated under our collective bargaining agreement.

Our Union will carefully review the decision, consider all of our options and continue to fight for players' rights and for the integrity of the game.

As Pro Football Talk noted, Brady and company won't be able to return to Judge Berman on this issue: 

ProFootballTalk @ProFootballTalk

Key point in Brady ruling: Second Circuit slams door on Judge Berman scrapping suspension a second time by ruling on open issues, too.

But if Brady wants to continue fighting, he has a few options, as Albert Breer of NFL Network noted:

Albert Breer @AlbertBreer

Tom Brady's recourse is to seek a stay/injunction and a) ask for a re-hearing before the full 2nd circuit or b) appeal to the Supreme Court.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Brady is "not ready to accept" the ruling today, adding that the quarterback is "mulling options" with his legal team.

Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal believes that Brady and the NFLPA will fight to be granted a stay and will either appeal to the full Second Circuit appeals court or to the Supreme Court.

However, ESPN's Bill Polian noted on SportsCenter on Monday morning that league sources believed the appeals court's decision would likely be the end of the road for this case, citing the more complex and lengthy appeals process that occurs in the higher courts.

Of course, Goodell always has the option to change the punishment himself, as Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk noted:

Michael David Smith @MichaelDavSmith

Goodell does still have the discretion to fine Brady instead of suspending him, which I've always thought would make more sense.

If Brady isn't granted a stay or doesn't continue to fight, he'll miss the Patriots' first four games of the season against the Arizona Cardinals (away), Miami Dolphins (home), Houston Texans (home) and Buffalo Bills (home). It would be the first season-opening game Brady would miss in 15 years, per ESPN Stats & Information, behind only Dan Marino (16), John Elway (16) and Brett Favre (15).

Jimmy Garoppolo will step in as the team's starter if Brady accepts his suspension. Garoppolo has appeared in 11 games since New England selected him with a second-round pick in 2014, throwing for 188 yards and a touchdown.

As Ian Rapoport of NFL Network noted, Brady did prepare for this possibility:

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

Tom Brady re-did his contract recently with this in mind. He'll now lose just over $200K instead of $2M. But it's the games he cares about

It's certainly a major blow for Brady and the Patriots and, on a wider scale, for the NFLPA. It's another indication that the breadth of the commissioner's power will be a major point of contention during the negotiations over the next collective bargaining agreement.

And for a Patriots team that will be without a first-round pick Thursday night at the NFL draft after losing it in the wake of Deflategate, it's another setback following the controversy over what the league deemed to be improperly deflated footballs.

You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.