NFL training camps will begin opening next week, and there still is no decision from the league on the appeal of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's four-game suspension.
The NFL dominates American culture, and there is rapt anticipation of the return of the 2015 season. This should be a news cycle filled with predictions of how teams will fare this season.
Instead, there is daily discussion and coverage of the Brady decision. Timing is everything, and the NFL appears to be on the verge of undercutting the excitement regarding training camps.
Everything about the Brady case is a negative for the NFL. Tom Brady has been a symbol of excellence, with nothing besmirching his popularity.
He led his team to a Super Bowl victory in February. The timing of the "Deflategate" announcements has been clumsy from its inception. The NFL released its big announcement concerning the case the Friday before Super Bowl week.
The big topic as teams arrived earlier this year in Phoenix was not the championship game itself, but "Deflategate."
There was a visceral public anger over the thought that NFL games might not be played on an even playing field. The only thing that can undo the popularity of professional sports is a lack of public trust -- a collective understanding that the games are not rigged like professional wrestling, but are played with identical equipment and rules applied to each team.
It is coaching and player effort that determines each outcome, not unequal treatment or equipment.
Now the NFL and its commissioner are faced with a no-win outcome. They are locked in a fight with arguably the league's most popular player. Brady wants complete vindication. He has threatened to sue the league if that is not the outcome. He also has the support of Patriots owner Bob Kraft -- one of the league's most powerful of owners, widely respected and close to Roger Goodell.
On the other hand, there are reportedly owners pressuring Goodell to uphold the four-game suspension. Part of the public and the fan base want the suspension upheld, to see justice served.
Last season, the NFL had the specter of the Ray Rice situation dominating news at the beginning of the season. The public was outraged.
But they seemed to bifurcate and compartmentalize their reaction. Fans went to NFL games and watched television broadcasts in record numbers despite their stated disappointment and anger.
It is likely that fan and public reaction will be similar this time. The NFL popularity seems bullet-proof, but there must be a better way to manage crisis.
-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @leighsteinberg.