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Report: Roger Goodell, NFL Could Consider Settling Tom Brady Case Out Of Court

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- After spending more than a year on the offensive against Tom Brady, might Roger Goodell and the NFL actually be willing to drop the charges, so to speak?

That's apparently a very real possibility, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ's Matthew Futterman reported that the NFL and NFLPA are closing on an agreement which would strip Goodell of his power to enforce discipline. Though such an agreement may not be something that will come together quickly, NFLPA director DeMaurice Smith told the paper that any such deal would very likely require the NFL to settle its ongoing litigation against players. That would, of course, include Tom Brady.

"I can't imagine there is any appetite [from the players] to agree with any proposal that doesn't wrap up all the litigation," Smith told the WSJ. "We can either continue to litigate or reach a collectively bargained conclusion."

The WSJ report comes roughly a month after The Washington Post's Mark Maske reported that the NFLPA and NFL were working toward an agreement that would guarantee neutral arbitration for disciplinary appeals on issues relating to the personal conduct policy or integrity-of-the-game violations. Goodell's serving as the "neutral" arbitrator in Brady's appeal has been a central problem for the NFLPA for the past year.

The NFL and NFLPA were in court earlier this month, after the NFL appealed federal judge Richard Berman's decision to vacate the four-game suspension issued by Goodell on Brady. It was just one of many high-profile losses for the commissioner, who is not an attorney and has no legal background. Penalties issued on Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson were likewise overturned in court. Goodell's 10-game suspension to Greg Hardy was reduced by 60 percent by Goodell's hand-picked arbitrator, Harold Henderson.

While Smith's tenor with the reporter seemed to be positive, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy did not seem entirely thrilled to be discussing the negotiations publicly.

"We are addressing the subject in a serious way," McCarthy told the paper, "and will continue to discuss this directly with the union and not in the media."

Also of note on Monday, the NFL for the first time admitted that a link exists between playing football and the development of CTE. With such a larger issue being discussed in Congress, perhaps the NFL seeks to limit the dedication of resources to frivolous fights such as the one with Brady. ESPN reported several weeks ago that the NFL has spent roughly $12.5 million in its quest to take down Brady and the Patriots over footballs which have not even been illegally deflated.

The three judges tasked with fielding Brady's appeal could take months to decide. Though it's far from a sure thing, the NFL and NFLPA seem capable of reaching a potential settlement before that official ruling ever gets finalized in writing.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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