That's among the most important takeaways from a federal appeals court's decision Monday to reinstate Brady's four-game suspension. Yes, discipline for a misdeed the NFL says took place in January 2015 remains in dispute here in the spring of 2016. Brady's legal options are diminishing, making him more likely than ever to miss the first four games of this season, but this case hardly has followed a predictable path so far.
As several ESPN colleagues have already noted, Brady has the option of requesting a hearing in front of the full 2nd Circuit Court. The U.S. Supreme Court is the other remaining step. (How incredible would be it for the highest court in the country to hear a case involving accusations of deflated footballs from a game two seasons prior?)
It's possible Brady could seek a temporary injunction to hold off Monday's appeal ruling in order to remain eligible while continuing his pursuit of legal justice. These are all options, of course, and in the end Brady could choose to give up the fight. Monday's ruling made clear that at least two members of the 2nd Circuit Court considers him to have been treated fairly under the terms of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, and pointedly, Brady recently renegotiated his contract in a way that reduces the amount he would lose during a suspension from $2.1 million to about $235,000.
Barring a Brady decision to cave, and the even more unlikely possibility of a settlement with the NFL, we will soon move to the next legal step. There aren't many left, but the legal landscape isn't barren. Yet.