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NFL hasn’t admitted that Ted Wells wasn’t “independent” (but that doesn’t matter)

The NFLPA has resisted explaining that its position in the Tom Brady litigation is essentially this: “Even if Tom Brady did it, you can’t suspend him for it.” Putting it that way would open the floodgates for allegations that BRADY HAS ADMITTED IT!, even though that wouldn’t be the case.

The NFL has taken a different approach regarding the supposed “independence” of investigator Ted Wells. At page 12 of the league’s latest submission to Judge Richard M. Berman, the league describes the issue as irrelevant.

“The debate about the independence of the investigation has no bearing on whether the NFLPA had an adequate opportunity to present evidence at the hearing, which is all that the CBA and fundamental fairness require,” the league explained. “Furthermore, Article 46 does not require an ‘independent’ investigation prior to the imposition of discipline, and indeed it is commonplace for NFL personnel other than the Commissioner to investigate the problematic conduct.”

And so the league’s otherwise masterful spin cycle has sputtered in this case, creating the impression that it has conceded that the investigation was not independent. Technically, the league hasn’t made that admission; the NFL simply has explained its position that the independence (or lack thereof) of Ted Wells doesn’t matter in the litigation.

It definitely matters beyond the confines of a federal courtroom, because it has become increasingly clear that Wells wasn’t actually independent, as demonstrated by the 456-page transcript of the Brady appeal hearing. Tom Curran of points out that, in the Angry Ted Wells conference call that was convened after some in the media dared question his 243-page report, Wells said nothing about NFL general counsel Jeff Pash reviewing the document before it was published, a gesture that necessarily scrapes the patina of independence from the entire effort, regardless of the content of any specific changes Pash may have proposed.

So even though the NFL hasn’t admitted that Wells wasn’t independent, it doesn’t matter. The effort to characterize his independence (or lack thereof) as irrelevant invites an even more vigorous argument that the “I” word was invoked falsely and only in the interests of two other letters: P and R.