What Hardy's reduced suspension means for Brady, Patriots

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The NFL announced on Friday that Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy had his 10-game suspension for violating the league's Personal Conduct Policy reduced to four games. Given that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is still waiting for a ruling on the appeal of his four-game suspension, let's take a look at what, if anything, the Hardy ruling might mean for Brady's future. 

HENDERSON RULED, NOT GOODELL
One element of the appeals process that may have benefitted Hardy somewhat was that his case was heard by league-appointed arbitrator Harold Henderson. Brady's appeal, of course, was heard by Goodell himself. Though Henderson deemed it just to reduce Hardy's suspension by six games, the fact that he was appointed by the league to hear Hardy's case last month was not necessarily good news at the time for Hardy and the NFLPA. Henderson was the arbitrator who heard Adrian Peterson's appeal of an indefinite suspension back in December. In that case, Henderson upheld Peterson's suspension, which was later overturned by federal judge David Doty. Though Hardy wanted a more significant reduction, Henderson's most recent ruling shows that was willing to alter a punishment handed down by the league. In Brady's case, it seems less likely that the commissioner will make any alterations to a punishment on which he signed off.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
Though the Deflategate controversy has at times seemed devoid of logical thinking, Friday's ruling in the Hardy case should benefit Brady in the eyes of anyone willing to dip their toes in the waters of common sense. Hardy was suspended as a result of his arrest last year on charges of domestic violence. Hardy was convicted by a judge, but when he exercised his right to a jury trial charges were dismissed because the victim, Hardy's ex-girlfriend, did not appear in court. Understanding Hardy's situation, can the league in good conscience uphold Brady's four-game suspension for allegedly having some knowledge of a football-deflation scheme? If Goodell opts not to reduce Brady's suspension, the result of Hardy's appeal, and the fact that the two players are scheduled to serve equal suspensions will surely be brought up as the latest example of the league's recurring tone-deafness. "If Tom [Brady] has the same suspension [length] as [Greg] Hardy, that's really [messed] up," a Patriots source told Yahoo's Charles Robinson on Friday. 

ON THE FIELD
Looking at the on-the-field repercussions of the Hardy ruling in a vacuum, Brady and the Patriots can't be thrilled. Hardy's four-game suspension -- which he could continue to fight in court -- means that he's scheduled to return to the field when the Patriots visit Dallas in Week 5. If Brady's four-game suspension is upheld, he'll miss the game, but if it's at all reduced or still in the process of being fought, there's a chance Brady could be in action for Hardy's return. As a pass-rusher and all-around disruptive force on the defensive line, Hardy's presence will add even more talent to what looks like a revamped defense in Dallas. Rookie draft picks Byron Jones (safety taken No. 27 overall out of UConn) and Randy Gregory (defensive end taken No. 60 overall out of Nebraska) could help quickly, and the return of linebacker Sean Lee, who missed last season after undergoing surgery on a torn ACL, should also make life difficult for Cowboys opponents.

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