A federal judge on Thursday threw out Tom Brady’s four-game suspension in Deflate-Gate.
Judge Richard Berman of Manhattan federal court announced the decision after the league and the players union representing the star quarterback failed to reach a settlement in their bitter dispute. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league would appeal.
The league had suspended Brady after concluding that he and two New England Patriots equipment managers conspired to let air out of footballs before the AFC championship game in January, presumably to make them easier to grip.
Brady has said that nobody employed by the Patriots did anything wrong.
The judge came out strongly in Brady's favor, slamming the NFL for the way it handled the scandal.
Goodell's decision in July to uphold Brady's four-game suspension was marred by "several significant legal deficiencies," Berman wrote in his decision.
"The court finds that Brady had no notice that he could receive a four-game suspension for general awareness of ball deflation by others or participation in any scheme to deflate footballs," Berman wrote.
The ruling means Brady is eligible to play in seven days, when the Patriots open their defense of their Super Bowl title against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In a statement, Goodell said the he and the NFL "respectfully disagree" with the judge's decision, and said they would appeal 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," Goodell said.
The NFL Players Association commended the ruling.
"We are happy for the victory of the rule of law for our players and our fans. This court’s decision to overturn the NFL Commissioner again should signal to every NFL owner that collective bargaining is better than legal losses," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in a statment.