The National Football League and its players union failed to reach a settlement in their dispute over New England quarterback Tom Brady's four-game "Deflategate" suspension despite weeks of talks, leaving a federal judge to resolve the issue in the coming days.
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Following a final round of unsuccessful private discussions, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman said at a brief court hearing on Monday that he will likely decide whether to uphold or throw out the suspension within one or two days.
In any case, Berman said, he will issue his ruling before Friday, at the request of the league and the union. The Patriots open their season on Sept. 10 at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Brady was suspended for four games over his alleged role in a scheme to deflate footballs used in the Patriots' 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in a January playoff game. The win sent New England to the Super Bowl, where it defeated the Seattle Seahawks 28-24.
With dozens of news cameras set up outside the courthouse, Brady and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell arrived within moments of each other around 9:30 a.m. EDT.
The four-time Super Bowl champion and Goodell met behind closed doors before Monday's hearing with Berman and another federal judge who have been mediating the talks.
Other officials, including New York Giants co-owner John Mara, who heads the NFL's executive committee that oversees labor matters, joined the discussions in a last-ditch effort to bridge the differences.
Berman said the two sides had "tried quite hard" to reach a deal.
"In some cases, that doesn't happen, and this is one of those cases," he said.
The judge's decision can be appealed by either side, a process that would last months.
Brady's suspension came after Ted Wells, a lawyer hired by the NFL to investigate the incident, concluded Brady was "generally aware" that two Patriots employees had conspired to deflate the balls. An underinflated football can be easier to grip, particularly in cold weather.
Goodell rejected Brady's appeal on July 28. The league immediately filed a lawsuit asking Berman to uphold the suspension, while the players union sued to contest it.
The union said Brady had no notice that he might be suspended and that Goodell was not impartial, given his praise of Wells' work before the appeal. The NFL said the league's collective bargaining agreement gave Goodell sole authority to hear appeals.
Should the suspension remain in place, Brady would return Oct. 18 against the Colts.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond and Joseph Ax; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Alan Crosby)