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Takeaways from Appeal Hearing
Thursday, March 3
Federal court reporter Max Stendahl noted appeals judge Robert A. Katzmann opened the hearing by asking how the NFL could justify penalties based on "new factual findings" after the Wells report. Katzmann also noted the gross disparity between the punishment for using stickum and the punishment Brady received for the footballs, per Stendahl.
While Brady's lawyer, Jeffrey Kessler, was addressing the court, Senior-Status Judge Barrington D. Parker said Brady's explanation for destroying his cell phone made "no sense whatsoever," per Stendahl. Judge Denny Chin added the evidence of ball tampering was "compelling, if not overwhelming," according to Stendahl.
Finally, in closing, NFL lawyer Paul Clement told the court that the appeals court has a history of deferring to arbitrators.
Ultimately, Stendahl noted two of the three judges appeared to side with the NFL but cautioned that it would be hard to know for sure how things would turn out.
Bob Glauber of Newsday noted a ruling wouldn't be expected for several months.
“I think Brady is staring at a 2-1 defeat,” said attorney Daniel L. Wallach, per Glauber. “It was not a good day for him. We’re dealing with labor arbitration, where courts are loath to interfere with the determination of arbitrators.”
Breaking Down Full Deflategate Appeal History, Brady's Chances
Brady was initially suspended for the first four games of the 2015 regular season on May 11 for his alleged role in the deflating of footballs used in the Pats' 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 18, 2015.
After multiple settlement hearings, Judge Richard M. Berman nullified the suspension, which allowed Brady to play the entire 2015 campaign.
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Brady went on to have one of his best statistical seasons, passing for 4,770 yards and 36 touchdowns while throwing just seven interceptions. He led New England to the AFC Championship Game, where it fell to the eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.
The legal process has been costly for all involved, and according to ESPN.com's Darren Rovell, nearly $20 million in legal costs will be spent among the league, the NFL Players Association and the Patriots.
Sports Illustrated legal expert Michael McCann believes Brady has the upper hand because of the track record of the judges presiding over the appeal, per an interview on WEEI's Mustard and Johnson (h/t WEEI.com's Ricky Doyle):
You have a group of judges who appear, at least at the outset, good for Brady because if you are Brady, you want judges that are going to be sympathetic to labor issues. You're going to want judges that are going to be sympathetic to union or management. Although these are not by any means far left or far right judges, they kind of are in the middle. Their track record suggests they are likely to rule for Brady. I say that because they tend to affirm the decisions of district court judges on arbitration matters. That is the key point because that is what Brady wants.
According to the Associated Press (h/t Fox 59), Brady will not appear in court Thursday, and it is expected to take several weeks for a decision to be reached.
Brady, 38, signed a two-year contract extension on Feb. 29 that will run through the 2019 season. His backup, Jimmy Garoppolo, would take over under center if he's ultimately suspended.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.