Lester Hayes of the Raiders
photo by Ron Haase/Getty Images Sport

It's all a matter of interpretation. In the 1970's the Oakland Raiders were considered the "bad boys" of the National Football League. They bent every rule, stretched every limit and basically invented the phrase "win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat."

The silver and black won almost as many games by stretching the rules and intimidation as they did by just being better than the other team. From the "Holy Roller" play to over-use of stickum, rules were written AFTER the Raiders found "unique" ways of winning games, but no players were ever suspended for their parts in the various "scandals."

In 2012, The New Orleans Saints faced the League's disciplinary committee after allegations that coaches had placed "bounties" on certain opponents, attempting to encourage Saint's players to injur those on other teams over a three year stretch between 2009 and 2011. The investigation led to the suspension of Saint's head coach Sean Payton for the full season and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and general manager Mickey Loomis for 8 games a piece. Several player also faced limited suspensions for their part in the scandal. The league also fine the Saints organization $500,000 and took away 2 draft picks.

The New England Patriots have twice faced official league charges of "cheating". In 2007 they faced a league investigation regarding their practices of taping opponents practice sessions and stealing signals. It was called "Spy Gate." Now, Bill Belichick's charges face the league's wrath in "Deflate Gate." As the Patriots handily defeated the Indianapolis Colts in last season's AFC Championship game, several Colt players made the allegation that the balls the Patriots used seem a little "soft." Apparently the allegations had been made against New England before, because the league had actually checked the inflation of the Patriot's game balls at half time.

Head Coach Sean Payton - Baltimore Ravens v New Orleans Saints
photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images Sport

The official investigation has been released, and the league has found several members of the New England staff were complicit in deflating the psi in the balls to below the league approved minimum. The league also found that Patriot quarterback Tom Brady "quite probably was aware" of the situation. The league does clear head coach Belichick of having any part of the inflation shenanigans. Reportedly the league is prepared to bring the ax down on Brady, with a probable suspension set to be announced this week. But what would be an appropriate suspension for Brady?

The are several different sides to this question. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Executive Vice President of Operations Troy Vincent find themselves in a tough situation. Goodell and Vincent, himself a former Patriot, have been accused of being to light on punishments in the past, when faced with recent scandals involving domestic abuse and player misbehavior. They have also been accused of over reacting when light punishments came to light in previous incidents and over penalizing other players. Some people, mostly anti-Patriot fans, are calling for the team to be stripped of its recent Super Bowl title, a season long suspension of Brady, and the team being penalized draft picks in next year's draft. The chance of that happening seams slim, as that type of penalty would seam to fall on the "over-reacting" side of the deflated ball.

Tom Brady sacked AFC Championship - Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots
photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images Sport

Common opinion seams to agree that, because of Brady's flippant attitude toward the situation and unwillingness to cooperate with the investigation, Goodell and Vincent will try to take a strong stance toward "Tom Terrific" and suspend him as many as 6 games to start the 2015 season. But Brady's lawyers will off course intervene, protesting that type of punishment would be three times as long of a suspension would be three time greater than the league originally invoked on Baltimore Raven's running back Ray Rice, who was video-taped beating his then fiance and dragging her out of an elevator by the hair in an Atlantic City Casino last off season. While the league eventually increased Rice's penalty to an "indefintite" suspension with lasted most of the season, common opinion is that Brady's will probably be reduced to 2 games upon appeal.

But, is that sufficient. When league rules are circumvented and the "integrity of the game" is brought into question, shouldn't an offending player receive a maximum penalty. Were the Saints head hunters any worse that a player who cheats to win? Is Brady any better or worse than Alex Karras (yes, the same Alex Karras who would later play father to tv's "Webster") and Paul Hornung, NFL players who were suspended for the entire 1963 season for betting on NFL games (other than those they played in). Should penalties for off the field crimes and problems be used as a yard stick for penalties of on-field actions?

Tom Brady - 2015 Superbowl
photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images Sport

In actuality, Brady and the Patriots were caught doing something that has probably been done a thousand time in the league. It was only that it was Brady and the Patriots that have caused the scandal. So many have tried to catch the former 6th round draft pick for so long because "there is no way he could have come from out of nowhere like he did and be this good, for this long." Basically, every general manager in the NFL, the ones that picked 198 other player ahead of the Patriots selection of Brady in the 6th round of the 2000 draft, have tried to find something, anything to pin on the former Michigan quarterback and his head coach.

Was there some hanky-panky with the ball inflation? Quite probably. Brady was caught because everyone in the league knew about it. How? Because they change the inflation for their quarterbacks too. Some QB's, those with smaller hands, like a ball they can "dig into", while larger handed signal callers like a more inflated ball giving them more surface to grip. Its all a matter of feel.

Should Brady be suspended 6 to 10 games? Probably not. The league needs to worry about wife and child beaters first. A two game suspension? I am thinking maybe not, but it would probably be warranted. A fine? Yeah, probably. Fine the guy that makes $18 million a year and take away a draft pick from the team. Will that stop the Pats or the rest of the league? Probably not, it will just make them come up with better ways to hide it and maybe they won't talk about it amongst themselves via text message.

Because after all, its just a game and it's all just a matter of interpretation.

Tom Brady drops back to throw - Super Bowl XLIX - New England Patriots v Seattle Seahawks
photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images Sport

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