NEW YORK (AP) — The federal judge handling Tom Brady’s attempt to overturn his four-game suspension ordered the New England quarterback and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to appear in court twice in mid-August.
U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman told the sides Friday he had scheduled conferences Aug. 12 and 19 “with your principles (including, without limitation, Mr. Goodell and Mr. Brady).” He also requested the parties “engage in comprehensive, good-faith settlement discussions prior to the conference on August 12.”
Earlier in the day, the NFL and the players’ union asked the Manhattan judge in a joint letter to resolve their dispute over Brady’s suspension by Sept. 4 — six days before the Patriots’ opener against Pittsburgh. The judge did not address that request when he scheduled hearings. Brady is allowed to participate in all preseason and training camp activities.
Brady was suspended by NFL Executive Vice President Troy Vincent for his role in the use of deflated footballs in the AFC championship game in January. Goodell upheld the suspension Tuesday after Brady appealed.
The union did not ask the judge to let Brady play while he decides the case. Both sides agreed not to request a preliminary ruling before oral arguments are heard. Neither side is requesting additional evidence, which means Goodell and Brady would be unlikely to testify.
Jeffrey Kessler, the lead lawyer on Brady’s side, said in his filing with Berman that the parties “agreed … to a final resolution of this matter prior to the commencement of the 2015 regular season would be in everyone’s best interest.”
The NFL confirmed it took part in filing the letter in an email to The Associated Press.
The NFL Players Association argues the punishment “defies the ‘law of the shop’ and thus the essence of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement.” The NFL has countered with Goodell having jurisdiction over such matters in the CBA, something the players agreed to when the lockout ended in 2011.
Berman already has told both sides to “tone down the rhetoric.”
In a court filing late Friday, the union called Goodell’s new claim this week that Brady “destroyed” his cell phone to thwart the probe a “brand new, hyperbolic and baseless accusation.”
The union lawyers called it a “complete red herring” because the NFL had all of the relevant text communications by Brady from other Patriots employees.
“The shrill emphasis placed by Goodell on Brady discarding an old phone is an attempt to obfuscate and divert attention from the glaring flaws in the award, the arbitration process, and the discipline imposed,” they said.
Brady and the NFLPA filed suit Wednesday in Minnesota. But the NFL already had filed papers Tuesday in New York, moments after announcing Goodell upheld the suspension.
U.S. District Judge Richard H. Kyle, based in Minnesota, ordered the transfer to Manhattan. He noted that Brady plays in Massachusetts, the union is headquartered in Washington and the NFL in New York, Kyle added that “the arbitration proceedings took place in New York and the award was issued in New York.”
Kessler had said the lawsuit should be heard in Minnesota because it was related to a case involving Adrian Peterson’s suspension last season. Kyle countered that the union made “only a fleeting attempt” to link the Brady case to Peterson’s.
The union is arguing that only a fine would be appropriate for a first offense of this kind, but Brady has maintained his innocence throughout the “Deflategate” saga.