After a mess that lasted several months, we are now one big step closer to the mess that is Deflategate being over. According to the Associated Press, federal court judge this morning vacated the four-game suspension for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, allowing him to play a week from today when the Patriots open against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Brady was initially suspended by the league after an investigation into accusations of cheating during the AFC Championship game against the Colts by deflating footballs (as if you needed a reminder - yeah, this whole thing has been about deflated footballs). The league's "independent" investigation found it probable that Brady was at least generally aware of what was going on, and combined with his lack of cooperation levied the four-game suspension against him. More recently, Roger Goodell upheld the suspension, in large part due to evidence of Brady destroying his cell phone - again, not cooperating. It went to court and the judge urged both sides to reach a settlement, but that didn't happen. So then today, Federal Court Jude Richard Berman overruled the four-game suspension and said that Brady should be reinstated immediately.
NFL Media's Ian Rapoport says that the league is not expected to seek an injunction to keep Brady off the field, meaning that he's basically assured of playing this year.
Don’t expect @NFL to seek an injunction to keep Tom Brady off the field as they appeal this ruling. Basically, he’s playing this season.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 3, 2015
Of course, now Brady's first game back will not be against the Indianapolis Colts in week six, as was initially going to be the case. Though the storyline of Brady's return won't be there for that game, it will still be huge. Colts vs. Patriots on Sunday Night Football in Indianapolis; a rematch of last year's AFC title game between two rivals and their first meeting since Deflategate happened. Oh yeah, and there's a certain all-time great Colt who will be making his return to Indy as well in Reggie Wayne.
More significant to the Colts is this: now that Brady will be playing all season, their quest for home field advantage in the playoffs grows a bit tougher. The Colts have a very good team and a favorable schedule, and it's entirely possible that they could get home field advantage in the playoffs, which would be huge (because it would avoid a potential trip to Foxboro in January). They can still get that, but now their biggest rival won't be missing their star player for a quarter of the season. I still think this team and this schedule lines up favorably for a run at that number one seed, but with Brady playing for the Patriots it makes it a bit tougher.