UPDATED, 11:53 AM: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell just announced that the league will appeal a judge’s ruling this morning that overturned the four-game suspension of Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady. But NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league will not seek an emergency stay, freeing Brady to play while an appeals court considers the case. His New England Patriots will host the Pittsburgh Steelers in the regular-season opener a week from tonight.
“We are grateful to Judge Berman for hearing this matter, but respectfully disagree with today’s decision,” Goodell said in a statement. “We will appeal today’s ruling in order to uphold the collectively bargained responsibility to protect the integrity of the game. The commissioner’s responsibility to secure the competitive fairness of our game is a paramount principle, and the league and our 32 clubs will continue to pursue a path to that end.”
The NFL also confirmed today that for the first time since Goodell became commissioner in 2006, he will not attend the opening game. That’s not shocking considering that it’ll be at Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots will be unveiling their 2014 championship banner.
The appeal will be handled by the U.S. Appeals Court’s 2nd Circuit.
PREVIOUSLY, 7:47 AM: Insert jokes about exhaling here. Three-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady can suit up for the New England Patriots on the marquee opening night of the pro-football season next week: U.S. District Judge Richard Berman this morning nullified the quarterback’s most-talked-about-ever four-game suspension by the National Football League. Berman ruled that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was out of bounds with the suspension, saying it violated the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the players union.
On the issue of whether or not Brady knew about or participated in a scheme to use underinflated balls in last season’s AFC championship game between the Pats and the Indianapolis Colts, Judge Berman punted. Goodell had handed down the suspension after an independent investigator hired by the NFL found that Brady was more than likely connected to the deflated-football scandal.
Cheering as loudly as Patriots fans now readying for next Thursday’s season opener against Pittsburgh: NBC, which televises the game each year in primetime and was counting on having one of the NFL’s starriest of star players on the field.
Last season, the NFL’s season-opening game on NBC in primetime drew 26.9 million viewers, with that Seattle Seahawks-Green Bay Packers game becoming the most-watched event on TV last year since the Oscars. It also snagged a 10.2/32 rating in the key adults 18-49 demographic.
Brady and the league were engaged settlement talks over the suspension ruling but broke off off for good Monday after Berman saw the two sides were far apart. Media reports said Brady was willing to serve one game of the four-game stretch for his role in allegedly deflating footballs used in the AFC playoffs, apparently an advantage to quarterbacks on throws. The topic dominated sports radio for the entire summer.
According to today’s story on NFL.com, there is no word on whether the NFL will appeal the ruling.
Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.