A federal appeals court has granted a request by the NFL and NFL Players Association to expedite a hearing on the league's appeal of a lower court ruling that struck down the suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
The move virtually guarantees Brady will play the entire regular season and postseason without the threat of being suspended for his role in Deflategate.
The NFL's wild-card playoffs begin Jan. 9, 2016. The AFC and NFC Championship Games are set for Jan. 24. The Super Bowl is scheduled for Feb. 7.
The decision, filed Tuesday, ordered the NFL to file its opening brief by Oct. 26. Brady's attorneys and the NFLPA need to answer by Dec. 7. The NFL, which gets the last word in its appeal, has until Dec. 21 to reply.
The appeal then will be heard as early as the week of Feb. 1, 2016.
Brady was suspended for the first four games of the season, and the Super Bowl champions were docked $1 million and two draft picks after a league investigation found the team provided improperly inflated footballs for the AFC title game against the Indianapolis Colts in January 2015. Brady appealed his suspension, and it was upheld July 28 by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Brady then appealed the suspension in federal court.
On Sept. 3, U.S. District Court Judge Richard M. Berman overturned the suspension.
The NFL appealed Berman's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Brady has started the Patriots' first three games, and the team is 3-0.