Newspaper article International New York Times

Judge Prods League over Suspension of Brady ; Trial about Deflated Balls Opens in New York with Both Sides under Scrutiny

Newspaper article International New York Times

Judge Prods League over Suspension of Brady ; Trial about Deflated Balls Opens in New York with Both Sides under Scrutiny

Article excerpt

A federal judge in Manhattan questioned lawyers from both sides for about an hour, but spent a lot of time poking at the N.F.L.'s case.

After seven months of accusations, recriminations and bluster, the N.F.L. and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady faced off in federal court before a skeptical judge who grilled both sides about Brady's four-game suspension for his role in the deflation of footballs used in a playoff game.

Judge Richard M. Berman of Federal District Court in Manhattan, who has urged the sides to settle their dispute out of court, questioned lawyers from both sides for about an hour on Wednesday but spent a lot of time poking at the N.F.L.'s case. The N.F.L. is seeking to fend off a challenge to its punishment by the players' union, which is acting on behalf of Brady.

Berman repeatedly asked the league about the evidence of Brady's involvement in a scheme to take air out of balls used during the A.F.C. championship game in January. Underinflated footballs could give a quarterback a better grip and an advantage in passing.

"What is the direct evidence that implicates Mr. Brady?" Berman asked Daniel Nash, the lawyer for the league.

Nash, in response, said that the N.F.L. based its suspension on the preponderance of evidence.

New England defeated the Indianapolis Colts, 45-7, scoring most of its points in the second half, after the Colts had raised questions about the pressure in the footballs that the Patriots were using. (Each team uses its own balls on offense.) New England went on to defeat the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

Berman noted that New England scored most of its points with properly inflated footballs and also questioned the league's contention that Brady did not cooperate with an investigation into the incident by Ted Wells, a lawyer hired by the N.F.L.

Nash, who spoke for 34 minutes, had trouble keeping up with the judge's questions, some of them pointed.

Berman, though, reminded the court that his questions were only a search for information, not an indication of how he might rule.

"I have not made up my mind which side would prevail legally," he said.

The judge asked fewer questions of Jeffrey Kessler, the lawyer for the N. …

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