U.S. court weighs restoring Brady's 'Deflategate' suspension

Thu Mar 3, 2016 4:54pm EST
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By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Thursday signaled it could restore the four game "Deflategate" suspension of New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady over allegations footballs were under inflated before a NFL playoff game last year.

A lawyer for the players' union faced tough questioning by a three-judge panel in New York hearing an appeal by the National Football League of a trial judge's reversal last September of the suspension imposed by league commissioner Roger Goodell.

Jeffrey Kessler, the union's lawyer, argued in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that Brady had no notice that an equipment violation could expose him to a suspension, and that Goodell did not have "blanket authority" under the league's collective bargaining agreement to impose it.

But U.S. Circuit Judge Robert Katzmann said as commissioner, Goodell frequently faces "novel" situations like the deflated footballs, and questioned why in those instances he could impose punishment for conduct detrimental to the league.

"Isn't that why the language in the agreement gives the commissioner broad authority for dealing with conduct detrimental?" he asked.

Brady, 38, had been suspended in May 2015, four months after under-inflated footballs were used in the Patriots' 45-7 victory over Indianapolis in January 2015's AFC championship game.

That win took the Patriots to the Super Bowl, where they defeated the defending champion Seattle Seahawks, giving Brady his fourth championship title.

The NFL suspended Brady after Ted Wells, a lawyer hired by the league to investigate the incident, said Brady was "generally aware" that two Patriots employees had conspired to deflate the balls, which could make them easier to grip.   Continued...

Jan 16, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) runs off the field after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 27-20 during the second half in the AFC Divisional round playoff game at Gillette Stadium. David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports