During the summer, many sports fans wondered if Tom Brady would run on the field and be the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots this year.

For the last seven and a half months it seemed as if “Deflategate” was never going to end, and, in my mind, it still isn’t over. Regardless of whether you think Brady was involved in the deflating of footballs, from a legal perspective, he isn’t “guilty,” and here’s why.

First, the term “guilty” is used in a criminal court of law, and, let’s face it, even if Brady did have a role or was involved in any way in the deflating of footballs, he didn’t commit a crime.

Secondly, it is important to remember what the recent ruling from federal Judge Richard Berman actually means. It doesn’t mean that Brady wasn’t involved in the deflation of footballs last season in the AFC Championship game. The National Football League still stands by the findings earlier this year from Ted Wells, the attorney who conducted an “independent” investigation, when he concluded, “It is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations…[and] more probable than not that Tom Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities.”

The recent federal case presented by Brady and the National Football League Players Association in federal court was not about whether he deflated the footballs, but whether Brady’s punishment — a four-game suspension — violated the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement and league’s policy and procedures.

The ruling from Berman earlier this month to vacate the NFL’s four-game suspension of Brady was a big blow to the league, commissioner Roger Goodell, and general counsel Jeff Pash. As Berman indicated in his 40-page report, there were significant legal deficiencies.

“The Award is premised upon several significant legal deficiencies, including (A) inadequate notice to Brady of both his potential discipline (four-game suspension) and his alleged misconduct; (B) denial of the opportunity for Brady to examine one of two lead investigators, namely NFL Executive Vice President and General Counsel Jeff Pash; and (C) denial of equal access to investigative files, including witness interview notes,” the filing read.

The ruling by Berman was appropriate because of the strong case that Brady and the NFLPA union presented about inconsistencies in the way the league has handled suspensions and penalties for players in the past. They presented a far better case and had much more credible arguments.

As Berman indicated, there also wasn’t much ground for the NFL to stand on. In fact, there weren’t any rules in the collective bargaining agreement clearly outlining the penalty for players that alter the air pressure of the footballs. At the end of the day, Berman ruled that the arbitrator (in this case, Goodell) “dispensed his own brand of industrial justice.”

The NFL took a huge risk in going after Brady in this case because Deflategate now opens up the door for more players in the future to legally contest suspensions and league policies.

Deflategate definitely isn’t over for the NFL. Following the ruling, the NFL said the league plans to file an appeal of Berman’s decision through the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Deflategate isn’t over for Goodell, who decided not to show up for the season opener at Gillette Stadium and is probably hoping he doesn’t have to show up at the Super Bowl and present the Patriots with the Lombardi Trophy.

Deflategate is certainly not over for Brady on a personal level; now he has even more to prove. If you recall, the last time the Patriots were accused of cheating (Spygate in 2007), the team went 16-0 in the regular season before losing to the Giants in the Super Bowl.

The court of public opinion may still be out on whether Brady deflated or knew about the deflation of footballs last season, but as a Patriots fan, I am excited to see the Patriots dispense their own brand of justice and go after back-to-back Super Bowl titles.

Caleb Gannon is an attorney at Lipman & Katz law firm in Augusta, where he specializes in personal injury cases and family matters.

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