NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — It’s on.
A federal judge put the NFL on the defensive over its four-game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on Wednesday, demanding to know what evidence directly links Brady to deflating footballs and belittling the drama of the controversy.
“What is the direct evidence that implicates Mr. Brady?” Judge Richard M. Berman repeatedly asked NFL lawyer Daniel L. Nash at the first hearing in the civil case in Manhattan federal court as Brady and Commissioner Roger Goodell looked on.
Nash responded there was “considerable evidence Mr. Brady clearly knew about this,” including records of text messages and phone calls between the quarterback and one of two Patriots employees implicated in the scandal known as “Deflategate.” But he also said there was no “smoking gun” showing Brady had direct knowledge that the balls were underinflated for the first half of the Patriots’ 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game Jan. 18.
Brady and Goodell didn’t speak during the hearing, except to introduce themselves to Berman. Brady, his head lowered, looked dour throughout a hearing that lasted about 1 hour, 20 minutes. Immediately afterward, Brady smiled slightly as he signed sketches for two court artists. Berman then met individually with each side for more settlement discussions in private. The talks continued for several hours into the afternoon.
The NFL sued two weeks ago asking for Berman to declare that its punishment of Brady was properly carried out. The players’ union countersued, asking him to nullify the suspension. The judge has signaled from the start that he wants the parties to reach a swift settlement.