NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady have attended last-minute settlement talks between the NFL and its players union before a judge announced he would decide the dispute over deflated footballs with a ruling in a day or two.
US District Judge Richard Berman on Monday said he had “no qualms” about the willingness of both sides to try to reach a settlement in the controversy that has hung over professional football since New England easily won the AFC title game in January.
Goodell in July upheld a four-game suspension of Brady, concluding the quarterback colluded with two Patriots ball handlers to deflate footballs before the 45-7 victory over the Colts.
Brady said he had no role in it. The players union wants the suspension eliminated.
Speaking at a hearing that lasted less than five minutes, Berman noted that senior executives from the league and the NFL Players Association who had not attended several previous settlement talks joined more than an hour of negotiations on Monday morning.
Giants president and co-owner John Mara took part, as did free agent kicker Jay Feely, Berman said.
Feely is a member of the union’s executive committee and Mara is chairman of the NFL’s executive committee that oversees labour matters.
Outside court, Feely said the sides tried their best for a settlement.
“For us it reinforces the desire and the need for an independent arbitrator in these matters of personal conduct,” Feely said.
“But we understand Tom’s position and I think the process will work itself out.”
Berman said he’s putting the final touches on his decision.
“It won’t be today, but hopefully tomorrow or the day after,” he said of a written ruling.
Berman said a week ago that he hoped to rule by Friday, giving the Patriots enough time to prepare for their September 10 season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
When the judge rules he will either uphold or eliminate Brady’s suspension.