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Deflate-Gate Judge Tells Both Sides to Keep Talking in Dispute Over Tom Brady Suspension

The star quarterback was told to return to court Aug. 31 if the two sides cannot settle.

With football season drawing near, a federal judge on Wednesday told the NFL and its players union to keep talking and find a way to settle their dispute over Tom Brady's suspension in the Deflate-Gate scandal.

Both sides were unable to hash out an agreement before the hearing in Manhattan adjourned for the day. Judge Richard Berman told the lawyers that they have "strengths and weaknesses" to their cases, but should work something out. He planned to meet privately with each side after court.

"A settlement is a logical and rational option," the judge said, according to Reuters.

Neither Brady nor NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was in court, but the judge directed both of them to show up for an Aug. 31 hearing if they can't come to a settlement before then. The NFL season begins 10 days later when Brady's New England Patriots host the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Goodell imposed the four-game penalty after a league-commissioned investigation found that two Patriots employees probably deflated footballs before the AFC Championship Game and that Brady probably knew about it. Brady denies wrongdoing.

In addition, the NFL contends that Brady had his cellphone destroyed the day before he met with the investigators earlier this year.

ESPN reported Wednesday that Brady is open to accepting a limited suspension, but only for failing to cooperate with the investigation, not for admitting wrongdoing in Deflate-Gate.

NBC Sports reported that Brady would be open to a one-game suspension under those terms. The NFL has shown no public signs that it would be open to such a deal.

Reuters contributed.