U.S. court weighs restoring Brady's 'Deflategate' suspension

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Wake Up: Deflategate Returns

A U.S. appeals court on Thursday signaled it could restore the four game "Deflategate" suspension of New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady over allegations footballs were under inflated before a NFL playoff game last year.

A lawyer for the players' union faced tough questioning by a three-judge panel in New York hearing an appeal by the National Football League of a trial judge's reversal last September of the suspension imposed by league commissioner Roger Goodell.

Jeffrey Kessler, the union's lawyer, argued in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that Brady had no notice that an equipment violation could expose him to a suspension, and that Goodell did not have "blanket authority" under the league's collective bargaining agreement to impose it.

But U.S. Circuit Judge Robert Katzmann said as commissioner, Goodell frequently faces "novel" situations like the deflated footballs, and questioned why in those instances he could impose punishment for conduct detrimental to the league.

"Isn't that why the language in the agreement gives the commissioner broad authority for dealing with conduct detrimental?" he asked.

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U.S. court weighs restoring Brady's 'Deflategate' suspension
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 31: Quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots leaves federal court after contesting his four game suspension with the NFL on August 31, 2015 in New York City. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman had required NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Brady to be present in court when the NFL and NFL Players Association reconvened their dispute over Brady's four-game Deflategate suspension. The two sides failed to reach an agreement to their seven-month standoff. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady leaves Federal court, in New York, Monday, Aug. 31, 2015. Last-minute settlement talks between lawyers for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady have failed, leaving a judge to decide the fate of "Deflategate." (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
This image of the first page of a court document released by the U.S. District Court Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, shows Judge Richard M. Berman's decision to overturn NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's four-game suspension of New England quarterback Tom Brady. (U.S. District Court of New York via AP)
This image of a portion of the last page of a court document released by the U.S. District Court Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, shows Judge Richard M. Berman's decision to overturn NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's four-game suspension of New England quarterback Tom Brady. (U.S. District Court of New York via AP)
FILE - In this April 31, 2015, file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady leaves Federal court in New York. Brady can suit up for his team's season opener after a judge erased his four-game suspension for "Deflategate." (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 22: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots participates in warmups prior to a preseason game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on August 22, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 12: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady leaves federal court after appealing the National Football League's (NFL) decision to suspend him for four games of the 2015 season on August 12, 2015 in New York City. The NFL alleges that Brady knew footballs used in one of last season's games was deflated below league standards, making it easier to handle. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell leaves the Federal District Courthouse August 12, 2015 in New York. Brady and NFL. Goodell and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady met with Judge Richard M. Berman who questioned both sides about Bradys four-game suspension for his role in the 'deflate-gate' scandal after the NFL decided Brady was aware that the balls were deflated in the first half of the Super Bowl final in January 2015. AFP PHOTO / DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 28: A fan taunts Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots as he takes the field during their preseason NFL game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on August 28, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 12: New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady arrives at federal court to appeal the National Football League's (NFL) decision to suspend him for four games of the 2015 season on August 12, 2015 in New York City. The NFL alleges that Brady knew footballs used in one of last season's games was deflated below league standards, making it easier to handle. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 13: A fan holds a 'Free Brady' sign in the crowd referencing Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots during a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at Gillette Stadium on August 13, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
A group of people wearing 'Deflategate' hats wait outside federal court during a conference meeting between New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015. Berman seems intent on getting a settlement of a dispute over Brady's four-game suspension for his role in using underinflated game balls -- in what's come to be known as Deflategate. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 12: New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady arrives at federal court to appeal the National Football League's (NFL) decision to suspend him for four games of the 2015 season on August 12, 2015 in New York City. The NFL alleges that Brady knew footballs used in one of last season's games was deflated below league standards, making it easier to handle. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
FILE - In this June 23, 2015, file photo, New England Patriot's quarterback Tom Brady arrives for his appeal hearing at NFL headquarters in New York. The NFL Players Union has sued to get a judge to void NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's four-game suspension of Brady in the "Deflategate" scandal, setting the stage for the spectacle of the pair having to appear on Wednesday Aug. 12, 2015, in the same New York courtroom. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell arrives at federal court, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, in New York. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Goodell are set to explain to a judge why a controversy over underinflated footballs at last season's AFC conference championship game is spilling into a new season.(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady wipes the sweat from his head during an NFL football training camp in Foxborough, Mass., Thursday, July 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
FOXBORO, MA - MAY 24: Ryan Desilets and Jon Harmon both from Milford, Massachusetts, show support for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady at the 'Free Tom Brady' rally at Gillette Stadium on May 24, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The rally was held in protest of Brady's four game suspension for his role in the 'deflategate' scandal. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gestures during an event at Salem State University in Salem, Mass., Thursday, May 7, 2015. An NFL investigation has found that New England Patriots employees likely deflated footballs and that quarterback Tom Brady was "at least generally aware" of the rules violations. The 243-page report released Wednesday, May 6, 2015, said league investigators found no evidence that coach Bill Belichick and team management knew of the practice. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, Pool)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 22: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks to the media at a press conference at Gillette Stadium about the under-inflated footballs used in the AFC Championship Game. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
PHOENIX - JANUARY 27: The annual 'Media Day' for the Super Bowl was held at the US Airways Arena in downtown Phoenix. Players and coaches from first the New England Patriots, then the Seattle Seahawks, spent over an hour taking questions from the media. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looked unusually upbeat as he listened to a question. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Baden Sports researcher director Hugh Tompkins shows an air pressure gauge reading for a football used in a demonstration in Renton, Wash., Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. Former NFL quarterback Hugh Millen, who now helps design footballs for Baden, says quarterbacks prefer footballs with less air because of better grip and faster throws. (AP Photos/Manuel Valdes)
Behind the scenes: Making the Super Bowl XLIX footballs! #SB49 📷: Rick Osentoski/AP
Making of the @SuperBowl XLIX footballs [PHOTOS]: http://t.co/qayPQfqt0A #SB49 http://t.co/0dQRKYgClH
New England Patriots football head coach Bill Belichick speaks during an NFL football news conference at Gillette Stadium, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015, in Foxborough, Mass., where he defended the way his team preps its game balls. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 22: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks to the media at a press conference at Gillette Stadium about the under-inflated footballs used in the AFC Championship Game. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Former NFL quarterback Hugh Millen throws a football at Baden Sports headquarters in Renton, Wash., Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. Millen says many quarterbacks prefer footballs with less air because of better grip and faster throws. (AP Photos/Manuel Valdes)
Baden Sports researcher director Hugh Tompkins shows footballs with different air pressures to be used in a demonstration, in Renton, Wash., Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. Former NFL quarterback Hugh Millen, who now helps design footballs for Baden, says quarterbacks prefer footballs with less air because of better grip and faster throws. (AP Photos/Manuel Valdes)
FILE - In this photo taken Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throws a pass during the first half of the AFC championship NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Foxborough, Mass. The NFL said Friday, Jan. 3, 2015, that evidence shows the Patriots used underinflated footballs during the first half of the AFC championship game. The investigation is still ongoing they added, and with no conclusions and no timetable for resolving the cheating accusations with the Super Bowl nine days away. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady faces members of the media at a news conference in Foxborough, Mass., Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. Brady said Thursday that he did not know how New England ended up using underinflated balls in its win Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, second from left, steps into a news conference in Foxborough, Mass., Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. Brady said Thursday that he did not know how New England ended up using underinflated balls in its win Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks at a news conference in Foxborough, Mass., Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. Brady said Thursday that he did not know how New England ended up using underinflated balls in its win Sunday against the Colts in the AFC Championship game. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady steps away from a news conference in Foxborough, Mass., Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. Brady said Thursday that he did not know how New England ended up using underinflated balls in its win Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 22: New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick speaks to the media on January 22, 2015 on issues surrounding under-inflated footballs used during the AFC Championship Game. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 22: New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick spoke to the media on January 22, 2015 on issues surrounding under-inflated footballs used during the AFC Championship Game. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 22: New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick speaks to the media on January 22, 2015 on issues surrounding under-inflated footballs used during the AFC Championship Game. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick reacts during a news conference prior to a team practice in Foxborough, Mass., Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. Belichick addressed the issue of the NFL investigation of deflated footballs. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, right, faces members of the media during a news conference prior to a team practice in Foxborough, Mass., Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick speaks during a news conference prior to a team practice in Foxborough, Mass., Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, right, faces members of the media during a news conference prior to a team practice in Foxborough, Mass., Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick walks from the podium after a news conference prior to a team practice in Foxborough, Mass., Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. Belichick addressed the issue of the NFL investigation into deflated footballs. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 26: A fan holds a sign referencing 'deflate-gate,' the under inflation of footballs used by the Patriots during the AFC Championship game, during the New England Patriots Send-Off Rally at City Hall Plaza on January 26, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Patriots will face the Seattle Seahawks in Superbowl XLIX on Sunday. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick holds the championship trophy after the NFL football AFC Championship game Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015, in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots defeated the Colts 45-7 to advance to the Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, speaks with Bill Belichick after the NFL football AFC Championship game Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015, in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots defeated the Colts 45-7 to advance to the Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 18: Umpire Carl Paganelli #124 holds a ball on the field after a play during the 2015 AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium on January 18, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. It was reported on January 19, 20015 that the league is looking into the apparent use of deflated footballs by the New England Patriots during their game. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
In this Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015, photo New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has a ball tossed to him during warmups before the NFL football AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts in Foxborough, Mass. The NFL says its investigation into whether the New England Patriots used underinflated footballs in the AFC championship game is ongoing after a report Tuesday night. Jan. 20, 2015, claimed the league found 11 balls were not properly inflated. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)
In this Jan. 21, 2015 photo, "Deflate-gate" cookies are offered for sale at Boston Common Coffee in Boston's North End neighborhood. As the NFL investigates how footballs got deflated during the New England Patriots' AFC Championship game, and detractors accuse the team of cheating, very little air seems to have gone out of Patriots Nation and its Super Bowl euphoria. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01: Tom Brady #12 and Julian Edelman #11 of the New England Patriots celebrate after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 to win Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates with the vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Brady, 38, had been suspended in May 2015, four months after under-inflated footballs were used in the Patriots' 45-7 victory over Indianapolis in January 2015's AFC championship game.

That win took the Patriots to the Super Bowl, where they defeated the defending champion Seattle Seahawks, giving Brady his fourth championship title.

The NFL suspended Brady after Ted Wells, a lawyer hired by the league to investigate the incident, said Brady was "generally aware" that two Patriots employees had conspired to deflate the balls, which could make them easier to grip.

Goodell upheld the suspension on July 28, prompting the legal challenge on Brady's behalf. Brady has denied knowing about any plan to deflate footballs.

U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan overturned Goodell's decision last Sept. 3. He said Brady "had no notice that his discipline would be the equivalent of the discipline imposed upon a player who used performance enhancing drugs."

Berman's decision allowed Brady to play the full 2015 NFL season. The Patriots made the playoffs but did not reach the Super Bowl.

It is unclear how quickly the appeals panel could rule. Paul Clement, the NFL's lawyer, urged the court to rule quickly to bring finality to the dispute before the next football season begins in September.

"It would be an awful shame if we have this issue hanging over the league for another season," Clement said.

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