New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell were ordered back to court Aug. 31 if no settlement is reached before that date in Brady’s appeal to have a four-game suspension reduced.
“A settlement seems like a logical and rational option,” Judge Richard M. Berman said Wednesday in U.S. District Court in New York.
Berman said, if left up to him to rule in the matter, he would not be held to a Sept. 4 deadline for a decision, which is six days before the Patriots are scheduled to open the regular season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Berman was stern and critical of the NFL’s case, citing multiple legal reasons why he could rule for the NFL Players Association. He repeated that “arbitration must be fair,” and doesn’t view it as such in this matter. Berman said there is legal precedent for overturning the NFL’s four-game suspension and asked lawyers for the league why deflating footballs and lack of cooperation was punishable on the same terms as drug use.
Berman presided over the settlement hearing Wednesday, when reports surfaced that Brady may be open to accepting some kind of suspension for failing to cooperate with the NFL during the Deflategate investigation.
League sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Wednesday that Brady would be willing to accept a ban but only if it can be for failing to cooperate with the NFL rather than admitting to the Ted Wells report findings.
However, settlement discussions on Brady’s attempt to overturn a four-game suspension have gone “nowhere,” according to the report.
Attorneys for both the NFL and the union made their cases in front of Berman in the two-hour, 20-minute hearing Wednesday.
The NFLPA argued on four grounds, according to USA TODAY Sports: Brady received a lack of notice; that the league failed to have proper protocol to measure ball deflation; that Goodell was an “evidently partial” arbitrator; and that the union was not entitled to the testimony of NFL counsel Jeff Pash, who had the authority to edit the Wells report that was used as basis for discipline.
“You could put whichever ground first, because we’d win on any of them,” NFLPA lead counsel Jeffrey Kessler said when Berman asked if the grounds were listed in order of importance.
NFL lead counsel Daniel Nash responded that Kessler “misstated the facts and misstated the record.”
Nash continued to defend the language in the collective bargaining agreement and supported Goodell’s decision to preside over Brady’s appeal.
“On the issue of notice, Mr. Goodell did issue a clear and reasoned statement which is echoed in the league’s Player Policy,” Nash said in his argument. “The commissioner did not believe Mr. Brady. That’s what arbitrators do. He did not find Brady’s testimony to be believable.”
Brady, Goodell and their lawyers engaged in more settlement talks in New York on Tuesday.
Brady originally had planned to miss another day of practice and attend Wednesday’s hearing. But when Tuesday’s proceedings brought no movement in a possible settlement, Brady decided to return Wednesday for the Patriots’ joint practices with the New Orleans Saints in West Virginia.
Brady missed Tuesday’s practice for the settlement discussions in front of one of Berman’s magistrates. The meeting before U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. Francis was held at an undisclosed location instead of the federal courthouse in Manhattan in order to avoid media attention, according to ESPN.
Brady had missed last Tuesday’s practice before attending settlement hearings in New York District Court on Aug. 12.
Berman repeatedly has instructed Brady, the NFL and the NFLPA to attempt to reach a settlement.
Brady was suspended four games for his alleged knowledge of intentional reduction of football air pressure in the AFC Championship game in January. He also was uncooperative in the opinion of the NFL and Goodell during independent investigator Ted Wells’ search for details. Goodell said in his decision to uphold the four-game suspension after hearing Brady’s appeal on June 23 that Brady intentionally destroyed a cell phone on or shortly after being asked for access to the device. Goodell upheld the suspension on July 29, prompting Brady to file suit in federal court.
With the ruling by Goodell, Brady is slated to miss the Patriots’ first four regular-season games: the Sept. 10 home opener against the Steelers, Sept. 20 at the Buffalo Bills and Sept. 27 at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars. After a Week 4 bye, the Patriots visit the Dallas Cowboys on Oct 11. Second-year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is expected to start in place of Brady.
Brady would be eligible to return in Week 6 at Indianapolis in a Sunday night game against the team that helped pave the way for the investigation. After routing the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 to advance to the Super Bowl, the Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 to win their fourth title.