Tom Brady and Roger Goodell spent Wednesday in court, meeting mostly in private, then leaving without resolving the dispute that currently has the Patriots quarterback missing the first four games of this season.
But if the questioning from US District Court judge Richard Berman is an indication of how he is leaning, the NFL’s suspension of Brady in the Deflategate case may be in trouble. During an open hearing in between closed-door negotiating sessions, Berman grilled Daniel Nash, an attorney representing the league, about a lack of solid evidence that Brady ordered balls to be deflated in the AFC Championship Game.
“What is the direct evidence that implicates Mr Brady,” Berman asked according to the Associated Press.
Berman repeatedly hammered that point as he questioned Nash on the league’s position that Brady knew two team employees were deflating game balls so the quarterback could get a better grip on the ball. At one point the judge said according to the New York Daily News: “From a legal perspective you have to be able to show that conspirators intended to be in a conspiracy… is there a meeting?”
Nash had to admit that no evidence exists where Brady directly ordered a team employee to deflate the balls.
As Berman attacked the league’s evidence, Nash continued to maintain that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has the power to make judgments without the same due process standards used in court because the collective bargaining agreement with the players union allows him that right.
Berman also questioned Jeffrey Kessler, representing the NFL Players Association (the union handling Brady’s appeal) about Brady’s apparent unwillingness to participate in the league’s investigation, handled by attorney Ted Wells. According to Brown, Kessler said that Brady had been told by his agent, Don Yee, not to participate for privacy reasons. He cited the fact that Brady’s complaints about the cost of a pool cover have come out in a record of text messages he sent earlier this year.
Kessler did admit that Brady should have responded better to Wells’s requests for information. This may be a tactical move on Kessler’s part that opens a potential resolution in which Brady agrees to a punishment for obstructing the investigation and the league reduces his suspension.
Brady and Goodell are both in court and the two sides met Wednesday morning for a settlement talk and are scheduled to talk again in the afternoon. Berman has pushed the two sides for a settlement. According to the Daily News, Berman addressed both sides at the start of the open hearing reminding them that civil cases can run for up to two years: “I think it’s safe to say nobody here wants to wait that long,” Berman told the court.
Published reports say that while the NFL and the union have been talking about a settlement, a holdup is Brady’s refusal to admit guilt.
Neither Brady nor Goodell spent much time in public view. They arrived in separate black cars with Goodell being booed by bystanders as he stepped out and Brady receiving small cheers. When the two were in court, Brady seemed unhappy to be there, keeping his head down for much of the hearing and did not join in any of the laughter exchanged by attorneys during light moments.
The two are due back in court on 19 August for another settlement hearing. If the two sides can’t strike a deal then, Berman will be forced to make a ruling on whether Goodell can suspend Brady for four games given the current evidence. That will not leave much time before 4 September – the day Brady’s suspension is supposed to begin.
This article was written by Les Carpenter, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 12th August 2015 18.13 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010