Tom Brady and the NFL wrapped up an eight-hour day of settlement talks in federal court regarding his four-game suspension Wednesday. Judge Richard Berman urged both sides to hash out an agreement, but reports throughout the day suggest that the two sides remain far apart in negotiations, with Brady's camp remaining steadfast that the quarterback's four-game suspension for his alleged role in DeflateGate should be wiped out.
Neither side had much to say as they left the court late Wednesday afternoon. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith offered that they had a "productive day" but that work remained.
"I have not made up mind which side will prevail," Judge Berman said Wednesday. "We are proceeding on both tracks of litigation and negotiation."
Lawyers representing Brady and the NFL, respectively, gave their arguments at a public hearing before moving to a private meeting in Berman's quarters.
The two sides will file additional arguments to Judge Berman this week and reconvene in court next week if no settlement deal is reached ahead of that time.
NFL says Goodell calls the shots
League lawyer Daniel Nash maintained that commissioner Roger Goodell was within his power to suspend Brady, and that the quarterback's infamous destroyed cell phone was evidence of his culpability in DeflateGate. However, when pressed whether there was direct evidence linking Brady to deflated footballs, Nash admitted that there was none.
From the Ted Wells report, the NFL believes that it has sufficient evidence that it was "more probable than not" that Brady was aware that New England Patriots personnel were deflating footballs ahead of the AFC Championship against the Indianapolis Colts. Brady, with the NFL Players Association's backing, argued that an appeal heard by Goodell could not be considered impartial, and that the league's punishment was not based on precedent, much less concrete evidence.
One particular sticking point of the case could be the cell phone that Brady destroyed, which the NFL claims contained potentially vital evidence of his connection with the Pats' personnel who allegedly did the deflating. Brady claims that he regularly gets rid of old cell phones, and from transcripts of his appeal we know that Wells never told him that the contents of his cell phone would be used against him. Still, the NFL cited the cell phone in its decision explaining why it was upholding Brady's suspension.
Brady's team says the case is "overblown"
Brady's attorney Jeffrey Kessler presented the argument that Patriots personnel may have deflated footballs without Brady's knowledge, and that the NFL's punishment is unprecedented. Berman, however, questioned why Pats staffers would alter game balls without the quarterback's consent.
Emotions ran high at times before, during and after the public hearing. The New York Daily News reported big crowds at the courthouse, and boos for Goodell and cheers for Brady as the two men arrived. Berman had to focus the proceedings at one point.
Kessler is fired up.— Stephen Brown (@PPVSRB) August 12, 2015
Berman tells him to stay focused on his questions. "What are you saying?" Courtroom cracks up.— Stephen Brown (@PPVSRB) August 12, 2015
Best Kessler quote: "Maybe if my grandmother had wheels she’d be a trolleycar!"— Stephen Brown (@PPVSRB) August 12, 2015
One the biggest concession of the day came from Kessler, who admitted that Brady should have been more cooperative during the investigation done by Wells. Still, Kessler made sure everyone knew that he found the whole thing ridiculous.
Kessler has moment of clarity: Calls this "the most overblown issue" he's ever dealt with in his career.— Stephen Brown (@PPVSRB) August 12, 2015
Yeah, that sounds about right.
With no settlement, the DeflateGate saga will continue. If there's no settlement by Aug. 19, both Brady and Goodell will have to take the witness stand next week in court. Both sides ended up here after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell upheld Brady's suspension after a lengthy wait following the quarterback's appeal.
Earlier in the day, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that one of the NFL's conditions for a settlement would be that Brady would have to accept the findings of the Wells report. With Brady insistent of his innocence and completely unwilling to admit any fault, he and the NFL Players Association reportedly found this term unacceptable, and maintained the position that only a fine and no suspension would be acceptable.
Both the NFL and the NFLPA would like to have a conclusion to the case by Sept. 4, the start of the week before the team's season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday, Sept. 10. With any luck, we'll be back to talking about the "football" part of the football season by then. Even if it's not finished by then, Brady could still play in Week 1 if his legal team seeks an injunction that would allow him to be in the Patriots lineup while the matter is still being decided in court.
Berman warned on Wednesday that similar cases can take as long as two years, so a settlement is a good idea for the two sides to try and agree on. But with both the NFL and Brady digging in their heels, expect DeflateGate to remain in the headlines for a little while longer.