"But Brady’s lawyers attempted to fit their legal claims within those normal limits of court review of labor conflict. They contended that his case did not follow the rules both sides had accepted. They argued that Commissioner Goodell (although entitled to name himself as arbitrator) had based his punishment on different reasons than those that led Goodell to find a rules violation in the first place. Brady was punished for the under-inflation violation, but based upon a comparison by Goodell of what would have happened to a player who had used illegal steroids.

They also argued that Brady was never given advance notice under the contract that he would face any punishment other than a financial penalty for a rules violation based on equipment-tampering. Drug abuse is what usually leads to suspension, they asserted.

But those arguments failed in the federal appeals, in a 2-to-1 decision that interpreted the players-NFL contract in very broad terms, especially on the commissioner’s powers, both in deciding punishment and in reviewing it as arbitrator.

Although Brady’s lawyers went to considerable lengths in trying to show that the case raised much larger issues, with wide impact on labor law, the decision of the appeals court majority wound up looking very much like this was a one-of-a-kind case, with its own special facts, and in which Brady got just what his union and management had bargained for..

Brady’s only chance in the Supreme Court would have been to make this dispute into a major precedent-setting controversy. Like the difficulty in getting the Justices even to take up the case in the first place, that, too, might have appeared to be a “Hail Mary” strategy."

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