Tom Brady is down to his last chance, and it's not a very good one.
If the New England Patriots quarterback is to avoid a four-game suspension in the scandal known as "Deflategate," he will have to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to take his case. Only about 1 percent of the appeals submitted to the nation's highest court are accepted, and they tend to be about grand constitutional issues.
Not, you know, deflated footballs.
Brady's latest appeal was rejected on Wednesday by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which turned away his request with a one-paragraph ruling. The NFL Players Association said it was disappointed but declined to say whether it planned to appeal.
Here are some things to look for as "Deflategate" mercifully, winds down:
Should Brady choose to appeal, he would ask the 2nd Circuit for a stay of the ruling and, if unsuccessful there, make the same request of the Supreme Court. (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is in charge of such requests from the 2nd Circuit.) A stay would allow him to play this season while the high court decides whether to take the appeal and, if so, hears the case.
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The Supreme Court accepts around 80 cases from about 7,000 requests each year.
The Patriots report for training camp in two weeks, and a suspended player is allowed to practice with the team during camp and participate in preseason games. Brady's suspension would not take effect until 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 3, the time rosters are trimmed to 53 players.
Brady would not be allowed to have any contact with the team during the suspension. He would return to the active roster on Monday, Oct. 3, a day after Game 4 against the Buffalo Bills.
Without Brady, the Patriots are expected to start Jimmy Garoppolo for the first four games. Even in their unwavering support of Brady, many Patriots fans consider this to be a benefit for the team.
Brady is going to turn 39 next month, and could use the rest. Also, New England hasn't been seriously challenged in the AFC East since 2010, so an extra loss or two could be inconsequential to the team's playoff chances.
Garoppolo has been Brady's backup since he was picked in the second round of the 2014 draft, and the Patriots certainly want to see what he can do.
This would give them a chance.
THE NEXT CONFLICT
While several judges have doubted the quality of the evidence against Brady and the Patriots, the 2nd Circuit panel that upheld the suspension ruled that the league's collective bargaining agreement gave Commissioner Roger Goodell wide latitude in player discipline.
So if the NFLPA wants to protect players from a process it has called "biased," ''agenda-driven" and "capricious," it will have to bring it up in labor negotiations. The current CBA is due to expire in 2021.
"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," the NFLPA said in a statement on Wednesday. "We have a broken system that must be fixed."