NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New England Patriots on Wednesday urged a U.S. appeals court to reconsider its decision to reinstate Tom Brady’s “Deflategate” four-game suspension, saying its star quarterback faced “unprecedented, unjustified and unsupported penalties.”
The Patriots, in court papers, backed an appeal by Brady and National Football league players union of last month’s ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, saying it would be “severely adversely affected” by the loss of its marquee player.
“The Patriots have a keen interest in making sure that Mr. Brady is not unjustly punished through a fundamentally unfair process,” the team’s lawyers wrote.
The Patriots also said they “strongly believe that nobody tampered with the footballs” used in the team’s 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in January 2015’s AFC championship game, the alleged scheme that led to the NFL’s suspension of Brady.
The victory propelled the Patriots to the Super Bowl, where they beat the Seattle Seahawks, giving Brady his fourth title.
The NFL suspended Brady after a lawyer hired by the league to investigate the incident said the quarterback was “generally aware” two Patriots employees had conspired to deflate the balls, which can make them easier to grip.
The NFL meanwhile penalized the Patriots by fining the team $1 million and taking away two draft picks, which Patriots owner Robert Kraft in May 2015 reluctantly accepted.
In a split 2-1 decision in April, a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit reversed a lower court’s ruling that threw out Brady’s penalty, holding that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “properly exercised his broad discretion to resolve an intramural controversy between the League and a player.”
Brady and the union on Monday sought to have the original three-judge appeals court panel to reconsider its decision, or have all 13 active judges on the 2nd Circuit review the case in an “en banc” proceeding.
The Patriots said the team wanted to address to the court the “fundamental unfairness” of the process that led Goodell to penalize Brady.
The 2nd Circuit is known among lawyers for almost never rehearing cases en banc. It is unclear how soon it will decide on a rehearing. If it decides not to get involved, Brady could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky