It looks like Deflategate has come to an end after 544 days, as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady announced Friday via Facebook that he will "no longer proceed with the legal process" and accept the league's four-game suspension.
Shortly after Brady's decision went public, Patriots owner Robert Kraft released a statement, via the team's official website:
While I was disappointed with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision not to rehear Tom Brady's case, I am most frustrated that Tom was denied his right to a fair and impartial process. The League's investigation into a football pressure matter was flawed and biased from the start, and has been discredited nearly unanimously by accredited academics and scientists.
In May of the same year, Brady received his initial four-game suspension, one he would appeal and win just days before the start of the 2015 season.
The NFL, though, appealed the decision to the U.S. Second Circuit Court, which reinstated Brady's suspension on April 25, 2016. Brady and his legal team applied for a rehearing, but on July 13, the U.S. Second Circuit Court denied the petition, per NFL.com.
The sequence of events irked Kraft, who will now be without his quarterback until Sunday, October 9, against the Cleveland Browns. He continued in his statement:
The penalty imposed by the NFL was unprecedented, unjust and unreasonable, especially given that no empirical or direct evidence of any kind showed Tom did anything to violate League rules prior to, during or after the 2015 AFC Championship Game. What Tom has had to endure throughout this 18-month ordeal has been, in my opinion, as far removed from due process as you could ever expect in this country.
Kraft added he believed from the start Brady was innocent and that the 38-year-old quarterback has always had the full backing of the entire organization. But the effects of Deflategate have been difficult for all involved, according to Kraft:
This entire process has indelibly taken a toll on our organization, our fans and most importantly, Tom Brady. His reluctant decision to stop pursuing further action and to put this situation behind him is what he feels is best for the team in preparation for this season and is fully supported by me and our entire organization.
While Brady is irreplaceable, the Patriots don't have a taxing start to their season. Of the four teams (Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills) that backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will face, only the Cardinals recorded more than 10 wins last season.
Given the relative weakness of the AFC East, the Patriots will still have 12 games with Brady to eliminate any deficit if the team struggles without him. For many football fans, that's a small price to pay to end this saga.