FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The New York federal judge who will decide Tom Brady's fate has told lawyers for the Patriots quarterback and the NFL to "tone down the rhetoric" and work to "pursue a mutually acceptable resolution."
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman made his charge Thursday morning shortly after Minnesota federal judge Richard Kyle ruled that a suit filed by the NFL Players Association on behalf of Brady be transferred to New York, the jurisdiction where the NFL had filed a suit seeking to have the court uphold its four-game suspension of Brady. Berman has given Brady's lawyers until Aug. 13 to reply to the NFL's lawsuit.
The decision to have the case heard in New York, not Minnesota, was seen as a victory for the NFL in the legal tug-of-war with the union. Kyle wrote that he saw "little reason for this action to have commenced in Minnesota at all," noting that Brady plays in Massachusetts, the union is headquartered in Washington and the NFL offices are in New York. Kyle added that "the arbitration proceedings took place in New York and the award was issued in New York."
"This court strongly suspects the union filed in Minnesota because it has obtained favorable rulings from this Court in the past on behalf of its member," the judge wrote in a footnote of the four-page ruling.
In his response to Kyle's decision, Berman asked lawyers from both sides to tone it down, adding "the earth is already sufficiently scorched, in the Court's view."
The legal decisions were just the latest chapter in the DeflateGate saga. In the last 48 hours, the NFL issued a scathing 20-page decision upholding Brady's suspension for knowingly using intentionally deflated footballs in last season's AFC Championship Game (and allegedly obstructing the NFL's investigation into the matter by instructing his assistant to destroy his cellphone), Brady issued a statement on Facebook vowing to fight the NFL, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft publicly eviscerated the league and threw his support behind Brady.
On Thursday, the Patriots held their first training camp practice, which also did not go without incident. For a good 45 minutes during practice, a plane pulling the banner "Cheaters look up!" circled the practice field. The plane, which is reported to have been paid for by a group of Jets fans, was largely ignored by players.
Brady drew huge cheers from Patriots fans, who chanted his name nearly every time he completed a pass. Several fans carried "Free Brady" signs and Kraft was seen autographing one of them.
Taking a cue from coach Bill Belichick, who has managed to make his way through two news conferences in two days without saying Brady's name, players deftly sidestepped all questions about DeflateGate. Brady avoided the large media contingent, leaving the field from a back entrance.
Backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was mobbed as he left the field. Garoppolo played in six games and completed 19 of 27 pass attempts last year as a rookie. The Eastern Illinois graduate took about 50 percent of the snaps at practice, which offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels said was about the same as he took last year.
"Everybody out here has to get better and has to rep and has to learn and has to make mistakes, make plays, do good things, do bad things and learn from them," McDaniels said. "The quarterback position is no different, really, than any other position we have right now. Those guys are going to both get a lot of work and got to get ready for the 2015 season."
Will Garoppolo be ready to start the 2015 season if Brady can't? He refused to make any declarations.
"We're not really looking that far ahead," Garoppolo said. "I don't think anyone is. It's the first day of training camp . . . Just stayed focused on what I can control and what I'm trying to learn right now and improve on."