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Court: Brady settlement talks resume Thursday

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A court docket for U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman in New York released Thursday shows ongoing settlement talks are scheduled between the two sides involved in the case of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady against the NFL.

Brady is fighting to have his four-game suspension for his alleged involvement in the deflation of game balls in the 2014 AFC Championship game, and unwillingness to fully cooperate with Goodell and independent investigators looking into the matter, overturned.

The next scheduled settlement talks in court are next Wednesday (August 19).

Goodell and Brady arrived at the federal courthouse in New York on Wednesday morning to meet with Berman. The settlement conference ended after about 7 1/2 hours.

“We won’t be making a formal statement other than to say that we had a productive day in court, and we’ll get back to work on the issue. Thank you,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said Wednesday.

Goodell and Brady, along with their lawyers, met separately with the judge before the start of their hearing.

“I think there are varying strengths to both sides here,” Berman told Goodell, Brady and their lawyers at the start of the hearing in Manhattan federal court.

Berman posed direct questions to the NFL and NFL Players Association lawyers in the settlement hearing involving Brady’s appeal of a four-game suspension for his alleged role in using underinflated footballs during the AFC championship game in January.

Fans were outside the courthouse when Goodell and Brady arrived separately more than an hour before the start of the morning hearing. A smattering of boos could be heard when Goodell arrived and shouts of “Give ’em hell, Tom!” were heard when Brady walked past the gathering.

Berman repeatedly asked NFL lawyer Daniel L. Nash for direct evidence as he gave both sides a chance to state their case in the first hearing before him.

Nash told the judge there is plenty of circumstantial evidence against Brady, according to the New York Daily News.

“Is there a text in which Mr. Brady instructs someone to put a needle in a football?” Nash said. “No, there is not such direct evidence.”

Nash told the judge other evidence “clearly indicates Mr. Brady’s knowledge and encouragement of this activity.”

A skeptical Berman asked Nash, “What is the evidence of a scheme or conspiracy that covers the January 15 game? I’m having trouble finding it.” The judge asked if it matters whether the deflation of the footballs actually aided Brady.

“What matters is the commissioner’s thought on that,” Nash said. “His judgment.”

Berman noted that Brady’s statistics were better in the second half of the Patriots’ 45-7 defeat of the Indianapolis Colts in the Jan. 18 AFC championship game than in the first half, when the footballs were found to have been underinflated.

“Turns out Mr. Brady did better with higher-inflated balls than underinflated balls,” the judge said. “You might say he got no competitive advantage.”

Brady’s lawyer, Jeffrey Kessler, said the debate over the PSI of footballs was “the most overblown issue” of his legal career.

Kessler conceded that Brady should have been more open with NFL investigator Ted Wells, but defended Brady’s destroying of his cell phone.

“He gets phones all the time,” Kessler told the judge before the hearing was adjourned. “Whenever he gets one, he gives (the old one) to his assistant and says, ‘Get rid of the phone.'”

Kessler said, In hindsight, “You’re right, it could have been done a different way,” regarding the cell phone.

The public portion of the hearing ended at 12:45 p.m. ET after about one hour and 20 minutes.

Berman, 71, ordered the two sides to have settlement discussions multiple times, most recently entering a motion Tuesday requesting the NFL Players Association and NFL to hold talks in advance of Wednesday’s hearing. Berman called them together at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday to be briefed on any progress in advance of the 11 a.m. scheduled hearing, amid reports settlement talks have not been productive.

Albert Breer of NFL Media reported that Brady’s refusal to admit guilt remains a stumbling block. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Brady would have to “accept” the Wells report for the two sides to reach a settlement.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash and Brady’s agent, Don Yee, were all in attendance.

A second mediation hearing is set for one week later on Aug. 19.

On July 28, Goodell upheld a four-game suspension for Brady. The NFLPA then filed an appeal 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 Pittsburgh 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 Colts to advance to the Super Bowl, the Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 to win their fourth title.

The Patriots aren’t planning to have Brady play in Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers. The plans for now call for Garoppolo to start, with Ryan Lindley — signed to a one-year contract on Monday — serving as the primary backup, according to ESPN.com.

Meanwhile, Mike Ditka said Brady should not budge on his position of innocence.

“If you’re innocent — and I believe Tom Brady is innocent; he doesn’t have to deflate a football to win a football game — then you don’t (settle),” the former Chicago Bears coach told ESPN’s Hannah Storm on Wednesday.


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