Judge urges 'Deflategate' case settlement as NFL, union spar

Wed Aug 19, 2015 2:46pm EDT
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By Nate Raymond and Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The National Football League and its players union clashed before a Manhattan federal judge on Wednesday after so far failing to reach a settlement in their dispute over the New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady's "Deflategate" suspension.

Before hearing two hours of argument over whether he should uphold the ban, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman again urged the league and union to strike a deal, saying both sides had "strengths and weaknesses" in their cases.

"A settlement is a logical and rational option," Berman said.

The judge also said he would meet with the lawyers privately on Wednesday to continue discussing a potential resolution.

Absent such an agreement, Berman intends to decide whether to uphold or vacate NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's affirmation of Brady's suspension by Sept. 4, before the season begins.

Berman also scheduled another court session on Aug. 31 and ordered Brady and Goodell to appear; neither was present on Wednesday.

Brady, one of the league's biggest stars, was suspended for four games over his alleged role in a scheme to deflate footballs used in the Patriots' 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in a January playoff game.

Ted Wells, a lawyer hired by the NFL to investigate the incident, placed the blame on two Patriots employees, but found that Brady was "generally aware" of what happened. An underinflated football can be easier to grip, particularly in cold conditions.   Continued...

National Football League Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith arrives at the Manhattan Federal Courthouse in New York August 19, 2015.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid