The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals denied a petition by Brady and the NFL Players Association on Wednesday to rehear his suspension case, meaning the New England Patriots quarterback's last opportunity to dissolve the NFL-issued punishment would have to come in a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Brady has 90 days to file an appeal with the Supreme Court, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. The expectation is that Brady's legal team will indeed appeal to the country's highest court, a source informed of Brady's thinking told Rapoport.
If Brady tries to move the case forward, his legal team could first ask the Second Circuit Court for a stay of its decision. If the Second Circuit doesn't grant a stay, Brady's lawyers could then request for a stay from the Supreme Court, which would be decided by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. If Ginsberg granted a stay or the court decided to hear the case, Brady almost certainly would be eligible to play the entire 2016 season due the Supreme Court's schedule. Brady would be forced to serve his suspension if the Supreme Court chose not to hear the appeal.
Gabe Feldman, director of the Tulane Sports Law Program, said the chances of the Supreme Court deciding to hear the case would be very slim.
The NFLPA released a statement shortly after the decision was announced:
"We are disappointed with the decision denying a rehearing, as there were clear violations of our collective bargaining agreement by the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell.
"Despite today's result, the track record of this League office when it comes to matters of player discipline is bad for our business and bad for our game. We have a broken system that must be fixed."
Brady was suspended four games by the NFL in May 2015 after an NFL-commissioned investigation conducted by attorney Ted Wells concluded it was "more probable than not" that Brady was "generally aware" of Patriots attendants deflating footballs prior to the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 18, 2015.
The four-time Super Bowl winner's suspension was initially nullified by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman last September, a week before the first game of the regular season. An appeals panel reversed Berman's decision in April, stating in the majority opinion that Goodell "properly exercised his broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement" in issuing Brady's suspension.
In May, Brady's legal team, led by former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, petitioned for a panel rehearing or a rehearing en banc in an effort to get the Second Circuit judges to reconsider the panel's 2-1 ruling. The Patriots, a group of 21 scientists, the AFL-CIO and a prominent labor attorney each filed amicus briefs in support of Brady's rehearing petition.
If Brady pursues an appeal and is granted a stay, he stands a good chance at playing in the Patriots' season opener on the road against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday Night Football on Sept. 11. New England then plays three straight home games against the Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills. If Brady were to end up serving his suspension this season he would be eligible to make his debut Oct. 9 on the road against the Cleveland Browns.