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

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 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)
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)
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)
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
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)
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)
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)
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)
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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