The never-ending Deflategate saga took another turn Monday when a federal appeals court reinstated the NFL’s four-game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned last year’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman, who had nullified the league’s suspension of the four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
Brady played all of last season as the Patriots reached the AFC title game before losing at Denver to the Broncos.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell declined to say at his annual state-of-the-league news conference two days before the Super Bowl whether the league would enforce Brady’s suspension during the 2016 season if it prevailed in its appeal of Berman’s decision.
The ruling was made by a three-judge panel of the appeals court.
“We hold that the Commissioner properly exercised his broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement and that his procedural rulings were properly grounded in that agreement and did not deprive Brady of fundamental fairness,” the court wrote in its decision.
One of the three judges, Robert Katzmann, dissented.
The NFL Players Association can appeal the ruling to the full appeals court.
If the ruling stands and the NFL enforces the suspension at the outset of the 2016 season, Brady would miss the Patriots’ opener Sept. 11 at Arizona and games at home Sept. 18 against the Miami Dolphins, Sept. 22 against the Houston Texans and Oct. 2 against the Buffalo Bills.
Goodell said at the Super Bowl that the league’s appeal was made in a bid to enforce its rights under the collective bargaining agreement.
“That is not an individual player issue,” Goodell said then. “This is about the rights we negotiated in our collective bargaining agreement. We think they are very clear. We think they are important to the league going forward and we disagree with the district judge’s decision. We are appealing that, which is part of the legal process. I am not focused on it right now. I am not going to speculate on what we are going to do. Depending on the outcome, we’ll let the outcome be dictated by the appeals court. When it happens, we’ll deal with it then.”