Brady and Goodell were ordered to appear at the hearing to discuss Brady's four-game suspension for his alleged role in deflating game balls during the 2015 AFC Championship Game against the Colts on Jan. 15.
Goodell denied Brady's original appeal of the suspension in July, citing Brady's lack of cooperation with the investigation conducted by Ted Wells and evidence he said “fully supports” that Brady had at least some knowledge of a scheme. The NFL Players Association sued the NFL two days later, still seeking to overturn Brady's suspension.
During the hearing, Berman said similar cases can typically stretch over two years. “I think it's safe to say nobody here wants to wait that long,” reported Stephen Brown of the New York Daily News. The Patriots begin their season on Sept. 10 against the Steelers, four weeks after the date of the hearing.
Brown reported that Brady and Goodell will have another settlement talk, which will be overseen by Berman, following the hearing. The two parties could remain in talks until Sept. 4, when Berman is expected to cut off discussion and issue an order.
Much circumstantial evidence has been presented throughout the legal process, and on Wednesday Berman said he was looking for direct evidence that would implicate Brady in the deflation of game balls. But he also admitted it was hard to fathom that a quarterback would not notice a ball was under-inflated because, “he's the one who throws the ball.”
“What is the evidence of a scheme or conspiracy that covers the Jan. 15 game? I'm having trouble finding it,” Berman said.
Jeffrey Kessler, Brady's attorney, pointed out the possibility that Patriots employees Jim McNally and John Jastremski could have independently decided to deflate the balls because they believed it would help a member of their team.
“Even the NFL...does not try to contend any player can be disciplined for being aware of someone else's conduct,” Kessler said.
Kessler conceded that Brady should have been more cooperative with Wells, but that his lack of cooperation pointed toward privacy concerns and not guilt.
The agreement coming in to the hearing was that no new evidence would be presented. Berman's decision, when he reaches one, will be based only on existing evidence. Statements made during the private hearing would be inadmissible as evidence in future hearings.
Aug. 19 has been reserved as an additional day for continued talks.
- Erin Flynn