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Mike Preston: At least Tom Brady and the Patriots won't cheat for a while

The best part about Tom Brady's nullified suspension? The Patriots can't cheat anymore, @MikePrestonSun says.

For the time being, the cheating will stop in in Foxborough, Mass.

That's the good news that has come out of this "Deflategate" mess.

U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman overturned the four-game suspension of New England quarterback Tom Brady Thursday, and the NFL will appeal. But Brady is at least set to start the team's season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 10.

Berman's ruling wasn't unexpected. In two previous hearings with both sides, he criticized the NFL for a lack of evidence connecting Brady with the deflated balls and also questioned how league commissioner Roger Goodell settled on a four-game suspension.

Once you heard that, you knew where this was going unless there was some sort of settlement. Berman cited the league's failure to notify Brady of potential penalties during this matter and noted the league denied him equal access to investigative files.

Regardless of if the league informed him, Brady had to know he possibly could have been suspended in this situation. He isn't that dumb, nor are his lawyers or Patriots coach Bill Belichick. They just didn't care.

The investigative and punitive system used by the NFL is flawed, but one that both league and the NFL Players Association agreed to. As a result of the Brady outcome, we're going to see more and more of these cases go either to arbitration or court.

The Patriots have been fined $1 million and docked two draft picks -- a first-rounder in 2016 and fourth-rounder in 2017. Was cheating worth the risk? Absolutely, the Patriots still walked away with the trophy, and now Brady is free to play.

But at least the smug boys from up north won't be so quick to cheat for a while. Everyone is watching now, and that once-close relationship between Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Goodell seems to be over.

As for Brady, the Golden Boy image is gone. The suspension has been lifted, but my opinion hasn't changed. He might have beat the system, but he is still a cheater. He is one of the best of all time, but his legend has been tarnished.

As for the Patriots, at least opposing teams can go into Foxboro now and believe they are on a level playing field. That belief will last for a few years -- until the Patriots think no one is watching and they can get away with cheating again.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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