The NFL on Monday filed its reply brief on its appeal of the Sept. 3 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Richard M. Berman to overturn the league's four-game suspension of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
The 38-page brief, filed with the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, responds to a 73-page response brief filed Dec. 7 by the NFL Players Association on behalf of Brady.
The NFL's brief, the final step before the appeal is heard, says that the NFLPA's defense invoking the NFL's uniform policy and its specified fines for first-time offenders "suffers multiple flaws." The brief goes on to say that the NFLPA itself told NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that the policy was inapplicable since footballs are not part of uniform or equipment.
The NFL argues that the parties agreed in their CBA that the commissioner has authority to impose discipline for conduct detrimental and may, in "his discretion," preside over conduct detrimental appeals. The brief states, "Appellees' contrary arguments seek to rewrite the CBA and open a loophole for any player to disqualify the Commissioner in any future conduct detrimental appeals."
In the brief, the NFL says "the Commissioner was entitled to conclude that, unlike wearing the wrong color shoes or failing to tuck in one's jersey, Brady's unique and aggregate misconduct posed a threat to the integrity of and public confidence in the game."
The NFL's argument to the appeals court goes on to say that "the Commissioner's decision is not just firmly grounded in the CBA, but eminently reasonable", and adds, "In short, the Commissioner's resolution of Brady's arbitration appeal comes nowhere close to the sort of 'bad faith' or 'affirmative misconduct' required to vacate his award."
Brady was suspended for the first four games of the season, and the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots 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 Goodell. Brady then appealed the suspension in federal court. On Sept. 3, Berman overturned the suspension. The NFL appealed Berman's decision to the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Oct. 26.
The appeal is scheduled to be heard March 3, 2016.