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Roger Goodell calls DeflateGate 'unfortunate,' but says it's not an embarrassment

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Goodell says it's unfortunate DeflateGate has had an impact on the game, but doesn't consider it an embarrassment for the NFL.

Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell didn't go so far as to say the DeflateGate drama between the league and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been an embarrassment, but he did say it's unfortunate that the dispute has lasted so long.

Goodell, 57, spoke with reporters at the Jim Kelly Celebrity Classic golf tournament in Buffalo on Monday, and unsurprisingly revealed that no settlement between the NFL and Brady is on the way. Well over a year into the battle between Brady and the league, Goodell was asked on Monday if the DeflateGate drama has been an embarrassment for the NFL, but the commissioner didn't sound regretful about the conflict and said it's the courts' fault it has dragged out.

"The legal system is deliberate, if you want to put it that way," Goodell said after a shrug. "It's unfortunate because it does impact on our game. But we don't encourage that, obviously, and we'd like to get this resolved."

The saga could be nearing a conclusion soon after a United States Appeals court reinstated Brady's four-game suspension in April. The Patriots quarterback petitioned for an en banc hearing in May, which would likely allow Brady to play the entire 2016 season, if granted. However, en banc hearings are rarely granted and Sports Illustrated compared the petition from Brady to a Hail Mary pass in football.

Goodell said on Monday that he didn't overstep his bounds when he handed Brady a four-game suspension in May 2015, but admitted that there could be a better way to handle player punishment than to leave the commissioner solely in charge.

"That's exactly what was negotiated in the collective bargaining agreement," Goodell said. "That's the authority the commissioner has been granted. ... So, it's a reality of the world we live in right now. It's unfortunate. If we can find a better system, we said that since we structured our collective bargaining agreement. If there's a better system, let's do it."

The NFL Players Association has recently taken up a fight to strip Goodell of his ability to discipline players for off-field violations. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told the Wall Street Journal in March that "neutral arbitration" could be on the way, but no deal has been reached yet.