U.S. District Court Judge Richard M. Berman has ordered New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to appear in court on Aug. 31 if no settlement is reached before then in Brady's appeal of his four-game suspension.
Berman also said offering an opinion in the case by Sept. 4 would be a quick turnaround for him, and he told attorneys in the case "not to hold him" to the date. Both sides had asked for a decision by Sept. 4, six days before the Patriots' regular-season opener.
If the appeal is not settled and Berman has not ruled on the case, Brady's suspension would be scheduled to start on Saturday, Sept. 5, pending any legal action, an NFL source told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio. NFL teams must reduce their rosters to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET that day.
As of now, there are no more settlement talks planned between the NFL and NFL Players Association until the Aug. 31 court appearance, sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
During oral arguments Wednesday in New York, Berman questioned the NFL on issues of "fundamental fairness and evident impartiality." He questioned why NFL attorney Jeff Pash, who was the co-author of and edited lawyer Ted Wells' report to the league, was not allowed to testify during Brady's appeal hearing, allowing the NFLPA a chance to question someone involved in the writing and editing of the report.
The judge also took issue with Goodell comparing Brady's alleged actions in Deflategate with a player taking steroids to gain a competitive advantage.
Berman ordered lawyers for the NFL and Brady to remain in the federal courthouse in Manhattan and meet with him separately as he tried to find common ground for a settlement in Brady's appeal, a source told Paolantonio. The attorneys met privately with Berman and declined comment when they left the courthouse after about an hour of talks, citing a gag order in the case.
Brady and Goodell both met Tuesday with U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. Francis, who is working with Berman, but those settlement discussions went "nowhere," a source told Schefter. Neither Brady nor Goodell was in court Wednesday. Brady, who initially had planned to attend, instead joined the Patriots for their joint practices with the New Orleans Saints in West Virginia.
Sources told Schefter that Brady had been open to accepting some form of suspension but only if it was for failing to cooperate with the NFL rather than admitting to the Wells report findings. But sources say the NFL has made no such settlement offer and there are no plans to offer one as of now.
After Wednesday's hearing, a source told Schefter: "[Brady] is not agreeing to any suspension. No chance."
Repeating his sentiments from a similar hearing a week ago that Brady and Goodell attended, Berman said Wednesday that he saw strengths and weaknesses in both sides' arguments.
"A settlement seems like a logical and rational option," he said.
Brady is seeking to overturn the suspension for his role in the use of deflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game. Goodell upheld the suspension on July 28 when Brady appealed, prompting Brady to file suit in federal court.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.