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Reported Brady offer to pay fine not an admission of guilt

Those settlement talks between the NFL and NFL Players Association regarding the Tom Brady appeal reportedly have resulted in an offer from the union that Brady would receive a fine but not a suspension.

This has caused many to question whether such an offer amounts to an admission of guilt by Brady.

The truth is that it doesn’t. Regardless of guilt or innocence, parties to any type of litigation routinely trade certainty for uncertainty by working out a deal. Innocent people often accept a guilty plea in criminal cases or pay a settlement in civil cases in order to avoid the worst-case scenario from a judge’s decision or a jury’s verdict.

A prime example of that dynamic comes from the Brian Banks case. The former USC recruit (who is now a league office employee) went to jail for more than five years for a crime he didn’t commit, because the alternative was to go to trial and face the possibility of a conviction and a sentence of life in prison.

Would plenty of people think Brady is guilty if he agrees to pay a fine, even if the fine is simply for failing to cooperate with the Ted Wells investigation and not for cheating? Sure, but plenty of people will think Brady is guilty even if Commissioner Roger Goodell declares that the Wells investigation was the product of incompetence, vacates the suspension, and apologizes to Brady for the inconvenience.

None of it matters, since the NFL is highly unlikely to accept a settlement that results in no suspension. But Brady’s willingness to give up a game check or two (or four) doesn’t mean he’s admitting to doing anything wrong.