For a second day Thursday, lawyers for the NFL and its players' union met separately with a federal judge to try to resolve their legal dispute over whether Commissioner Roger Goodell's four-game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in a controversy over deflated footballs should stand.
Two hours of morning meetings occurred a day after Judge Richard M. Berman in Manhattan oversaw more than four hours of discussions aimed at moving both sides toward a settlement of a dispute that threatens to cast a cloud over the start of a new season.
Neither Brady nor Goodell attended Thursday's talks.
Last month, Goodell upheld Brady's suspension, concluding he "knew about, approved of, consented to, and provided inducements and rewards" to support a scheme in which a Patriots employee deflated balls before the Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 in the Jan. 18 AFC championship game. The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl.
Brady has repeatedly said he knew nothing about a plot to deflate game balls. The players union, which is fighting the suspension, maintains there is no proof balls were deflated.
There are no additional talks with the judge scheduled before a hearing next week, though lawyers were expected to continue negotiations on their own.
The latest talks occurred because lawyers had not finished their meetings with Berman when they left the courthouse Wednesday after four hours of discussions.
If there is no settlement, Berman will decide whether Brady's suspension remains in place at the start of the season.
Asked about the talks, attorney Jeffrey L. Kessler for the players union said Thursday: "Sorry, not commenting." A lawyer for the NFL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
During a public court session Wednesday, the judge softened each side for negotiations by pointing out weaknesses in their cases.
He narrowed the facts of the case to January's championship case and pressed the NFL to cite any direct evidence that Brady knew balls were deflated. He asked a lawyer for the players union to explain how balls could be deflated without Brady's knowledge and why Brady would destroy a cell phone that contained nearly 10,000 text messages.