New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension in connection with deflated footballs has been reinstated for the new NFL season.
The Patriots were found to have used game balls inflated below the league’s minimum air pressure level during January 2015’s AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts, which they won 45-7 with Brady throwing for three touchdowns. They went on to beat the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
They were fined US$1 million (Dh3.7m) and docked their first-round pick in this week’s draft and their fourth-round pick next year.
Brady, meanwhile, was banned for the first four games of last season after investigator Ted Wells ruled he must have been “at least generally aware” of the team’s wrongdoing.
The quarterback’s ban was negated by US District Judge Richard Berman a week before the season began after the Patriots and the NFL Players’ Association (NFLPA) claimed it violated the league’s collective bargaining agreement, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appealed in turn to the US Court of Appeals.
That verdict on Monday came back in Goodell’s favour and read: “We hold that the commissioner properly exercised his broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement and that his procedural rulings were properly grounded in that agreement and did not deprive Brady of fundamental fairness.
“Accordingly, we reverse the judgement of the district court and remand with instructions to confirm the award.”
Brady and the NFLPA can request a stay of the suspension if they wish to petition for another hearing in front of the same Court of Appeals panel or take the case to the US Supreme Court. There is also the possibility of a settlement with the NFL to avoid further appeals.
Brady played every game of last season, throwing for 4,770 yards, 36 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He added 612 yards, three touchdowns and two picks in the post-season as his side lost to eventual Super Bowl winners the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game.
He is set to miss games against the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills before returning to face the Cleveland Browns in week five.
The untested Jimmy Garoppolo would be his deputy, barring a new signing before the season begins. The loss of their top draft pick will surely rule the Patriots out of taking one of the draft’s higher-ranked quarterbacks.
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