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Geno Atkins wins AFC defensive player of the week honors

Ben Roethlisberger, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap AP

The Bengals are headed back to the playoffs thanks in large part to their defensive line, and another member of that line picked up an award Thursday.

Defensive tackle Geno Atkins was named AFC defensive player of the week, after last week’s postseason-clinching win at Pittsburgh.

Atkins had six tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in the Bengals’ 13-10 win, which earned them back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since 1981-82.

Atkins is fifth in the league with 12.5 sacks, the most among defensive tackles. He joins line-mates Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap as winners of player of the week honors this season.

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NFL won’t seek a stay of Berman’s ruling, leaving Brady free to play

Tom Brady, Wes Horton AP

The NFL will appeal Judge Richard Berman’s decision to erase Tom Brady’s four-game suspension, but they reportedly won’t be trying to keep Brady off the field against the Steelers next week.

According to multiple reports, the league will not seek a stay of Berman’s ruling as part of their appeal. If they tried for and were granted a stay by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Brady’s suspension would remain in place pending a decision by that court.

With no stay, Brady will be free to play until and unless that decision comes back affirming the league’s right to suspend Brady. If things did go that way, Brady could conceivably wind up suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season.

While the appeal means there’s still a lot of legal wrangling to come, it should be lower profile than what we’ve seen this summer. With Brady set to be on the field, the legal proceedings will likely take a backseat to the action in the stadiums.

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Vegas bumps line in wake of Brady ruling

Pamela Anderson And Chrissie Hynde Take Part In PETA's Dan Mathews Wedding To Jack Ryan Getty Images

There have been and are going to be responses from all around the football world to Judge Richard Berman’s decision to wipe out Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension.

Some of those responses will be official, like the NFL’s notice of their plan to appeal the decision, and some will be less formal, like the victory lap that the Patriots are taking on Twitter Thursday. We’re not sure exactly where Las Vegas sportsbooks fall into that spectrum, but we do know that plenty of people are paying attention to them and that they were paying attention on Thursday morning.

VegasInsider.com has the lines from a variety of books and, as you’d expect, they show that the Patriots have become stronger favorites in the wake of the ruling. Most books had the Patriots as 3- or 3.5-point favorites coming into Thursday and they’ve now been bumped up to 6.5- or 7-point favorites with Brady now set to be in the lineup.

If enough bettors believe that the Patriots will be able to pour it on at home against a Steelers team that will be missing Le’Veon Bell, Maurkice Pouncey and Martavis Bryant on offense and a remade defense in its first regular season game, that line will get even bigger over the next week.

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Greg Hardy considering an appeal of his four-game suspension

Greg Hardy AP

Not only did the NFL lose in court again today, they might have more court dates in their future.

According to Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com, Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy is conferring with NFLPA officials to determine whether he’ll appeal for a reduction of his already reduced four-game suspension.

With the Tom Brady ruling a significant win for the players union, they’re going to be emboldened to push every case, and Hardy has what could be considered a good one.

While his suspension was reduced from 10 games to four by arbitrator Harold Henderson, that’s also double the standard punishment for domestic violence under the old conduct policy — which was in place when Hardy was arrested in 2014 as a member of the Panthers.

But when commissioner Roger Goodell initially announced Hardy’s 10-game ban, he said it was for the broadly defined “conduct detrimental to the league” rather than the domestic violence itself.

With the wind blowing strongly in favor of players now, it only makes sense for them to raise sails and see how far they can go.

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Goodell: We disagree with the decision and will appeal

goodell AP

The NFL is not done fighting on Deflategate.

Hours after Judge Richard Berman vacated Tom Brady’s four-game suspension, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement saying the league disagrees with Berman’s ruling and will appeal.

“We are grateful to Judge Berman for hearing this matter, but respectfully disagree with today’s decision,” the statement said. “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. While the legal phase of this process continues, we look forward to focusing on football and the opening of the regular season.”

An appeal could take a long time, so this is far from over. In fact, it’s entirely possible that if the NFL wins the appeal, it will be several months from now — and Brady will be suspended for four games in 2016.

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Berman: Goodell “may be said to have dispensed his own brand of industrial justice”

Roger Goodell AP

Judge Richard Berman did not directly address whether or not NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was sufficiently impartial in his decision to uphold Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension on appeal, but he did take issue with the way Goodell wielded his power in the Thursday ruling nullifying the suspension.

While discussing reasons why a judge could overturn an arbitrator’s award under a collective bargaining agreement, Berman notes that an arbitrator “is not free to merely dispense his own brand of industrial justice.” He also notes that the “law of the shop” in the NFL is for players to be made aware of prohibited conduct and potential discipline, something that Berman finds the NFL did not do in regard to Brady. Furthermore, Berman cites former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s ruling in the Bountygate case that he knew of no cases where the NFL suspended a player for failing to cooperate with an investigation.

“Because there was no notice of a four-game suspension in the circumstances presented here, Commissioner Goodell may be said to have ‘dispense[d] his own brand of industrial justice,'” Berman writes in his decision.

Taken on top of Berman’s finding that the league’s investigation into the entire affair was not as independent as they maintained throughout the process, the ruling does much to cast doubt on the NFL’s process of and/or interest in reaching the fairest conclusion for all involved.

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Judge didn’t buy NFL’s claims that Ted Wells was “independent”

Brady AP

When the NFL first announced that Deflategate would be investigated, it hired Ted Wells to lead what the league termed an “independent” investigation. More than seven months later, Judge Richard Berman has made clear that he doubts Wells’s independence.

In his opinion vacating Tom Brady’s suspension, Berman put the word “independent” in quotation marks when he used it to refer to Wells’s investigation. And Wells made clear that he believes the NFL’s handling of Wells’s investigation was unfair to Brady, noting that NFL general counsel Jeff Pash was allowed to edit Wells’s report, while Brady was not allowed to question Pash.

“Denied the opportunity to examine Pash at the arbitral hearing, Brady was prejudiced. He was foreclosed from exploring, among other things, whether the Pash/Wells Investigation was truly ‘independent,’ and how and why the NFL’ s General Counsel came to edit a supposedly independent investigation report,” Berman wrote.

Berman also wrote that it was “seemingly inconsistent” for Wells’s law firm to act as counsel to the NFL while simultaneously conducting an “independent” investigation.

The NFL paid Wells millions to conduct its investigation. Judge Berman thinks that very fact shows Wells’s investigation lacks independence, because when someone is paying you millions of dollars, you’re probably going to tell them what they want to hear.

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NFLPA thanks Judge Berman, points out Goodell’s record in court

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As you might imagine, the NFLPA was rather pleased by Judge Richard Berman’s ruling which overturned Tom Brady’s #DeflateGate suspension.

And in their celebration, they were careful to note that this was merely the latest loss in court for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

“The rights of Tom Brady and of all NFL players under the collective bargaining agreement were affirmed today by a Federal Judge in a court of the NFL’s choosing,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in a statement. “We thank Judge Berman for his time, careful consideration of the issue and fair and just result.

“This decision should prove, once and for all, that our Collective Bargaining Agreement does not grant this Commissioner the authority to be unfair, arbitrary and misleading. While the CBA grants the person who occupies the position of Commissioner the ability to judiciously and fairly exercise the designated power of that position, the union did not agree to attempts to unfairly, illegally exercise that power, contrary to what the NFL has repeatedly and wrongfully claimed.

“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. Collective bargaining is a much better process that will lead to far better results.”

That’s a fairly strong gloat at a moment when the league is reeling, from a loss even bigger than the Saints alleged bounty scandal and bigger than anything involving Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson or Greg Hardy.

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PFT Live: Ben Volin, Peter King, Kurt Warner

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The ruling is in and Tom Brady’s suspension is off.

As you can imagine, Judge Richard Berman’s decision to wipe out the Patriots quarterback’s four-game suspension will be a major focus of Thursday’s PFT Live. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports and Peter King of MMQB.com will join Mike Florio to discuss the ruling, whether the NFL will appeal and more fallout from a major victory for Brady and the NFLPA on Thursday.

We’ll also be talking to two-time NFL MVP Kurt Warner during the show and Florio will also be visiting with PFT Commenter, so we’ll get several opinions about the long-awaited decision.

As always, we also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour by clicking right here.

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Brady will face reeling, remade Steelers defense

New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

After Thursday’s court ruling that a few people are talking about, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be in the lineup Sept. 10 when the Patriots open the season vs. the Steelers.

That’s not great news for a Steelers defense that’s been retooling on the fly and has gotten gashed in the preseason. In four preseason first halves the Steelers have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 80 percent of their passes while compiling an interception-free 122.3 quarterback rating.

The Steelers have a new defensive coordinator in Keith Butler and are transitioning to a new scheme following the firing of Dick LeBeau last winter. It’s just the preseason, but the Bills last weekend racked up 542 yards on seven plays of 20 yards or longer against the Steelers.

The Bills.

“(Our players) need the experience together, and even if it is experience of failing, it is better than not being out there,” Butler told reporters this week. “You have to put some stock in the preseason because you have to see who can do what and you evaluate like that.”

It’s not all about scheme and what’s new. The Steelers ranked 18th in total defense last season, 27th against the pass, and their 33 sacks were 10 fewer than they recorded the previous season.

Before next week, the Steelers are hoping for reinforcements from within. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons has been out three weeks with a toe injury; defensive end Stephon Tuitt twisted his ankle during the third preseason game against the Packers, an injury initially feared to be significant; and safety Mike Mitchell has battled a sore hamstring and a twisted ankle that has forced him to miss most of the preseason.

The Steelers visited with former Browns nose tackle Phil Taylor one day after his release, but the team’s medical staff reportedly doesn’t believe Taylor’s knee is healthy enough. The team drafted outside linebacker Bud Dupree in the first round last spring and cornerback Senquez Golson in the second, but Golson is out for the year with a shoulder injury. Cornerback Brandon Boykin was added in an Aug. 1 trade with the Eagles.

So, Butler and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will take what they have seen and the players who are available and get to work this weekend on defending the Brady-led Patriots. Preseason results are quickly forgotten, but a remade defense trying to keep up with Brady in the first game figures to be a tall task.

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Berman cites Jets K-ball case in ruling wiping out Brady’s suspension

Jay Feely, DeMaurice Smith AP

Among the grounds that Judge Richard Berman used to come to his decision to wipe out Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension was the lack of notice of potential discipline from the league to Brady.

In his ruling, Berman lays out some of the cases that led him to that conclusion. Those include Brett Favre’s fine (and no suspension) for failing to cooperate with a league investigation and previous cases of violations of equipment policy that led to no punishment for players. One of those cases was the Jets’ attempted use of unapproved kicking balls in a 2009 game against the Patriots. An equipment employee was suspended, but no players were investigated for being “generally” or specifically aware.

Berman notes that the NFLPA pointed out that includes then-Jets kicker Jay Feely, who stood to gain the most from using the balls and, by the logic used by the NFL in regard to Brady, would have been the likeliest player to be aware of any improprieties. Feely was in Berman’s court on Monday as part of the NFLPA’s executive committee and revealed that he discussed that case with Brady.

“We talked about the similarities in that case and the differences in the way the NFL responded,” Feely said. “I didn’t get in trouble. I had no culpability in that case.”

Berman’s ruling makes it clear that he saw merit in the argument that both the investigation and Brady’s punishment were handled arbitrarily by booting the NFL’s suspension the way Feely used to boot the football.

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Brady gets a slam-dunk win

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The 40-page ruling is out, and it’s clear that the win for Tom Brady was a slam dunk. Or maybe a ball-deflating Gronk spike.

Judge Richard M. Berman delivered a near-total victory for Brady and the NFL Players Association, finding that the NFL can’t suspend Brady for knowledge of a deflation scheme because Brady was not placed on proper notice of the possibility of a suspension for such conduct. Judge Berman also adopted the observation from former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue in the Saints bounty scandal regarding the fact that the NFL has never before suspended a player for obstructing an NFL investigation.

So basically Brady can be fined at most for the two infractions, but he cannot be suspended.

It’s a complete and total win for Brady and the NFLPA (with one exception noted below). Judge Berman also found that Commissioner Roger Goodell should have allowed the NFLPA to call general counsel Jeff Pash to testify at the appeal hearing, and that Goodell should have given the NFLPA equal access to the files generated by “independent” investigator Ted Wells.

The only good news for the NFL is that Judge Berman stopped short of addressing the question of whether Goodell was “evidently partial” in the appeal process or whether Goodell improperly delegated his initial authority to punish Brady to executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent.

The NFL has the right to appeal the decision. We’ll have more on how that process works in a later post. For now, I have to go make sure PFT Commenter isn’t taking any liberties with my farm animals.

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Report: Judge Berman overturns Brady suspension

Tom Brady AP

The #DeflateWait is over. (Credit to Trey Wingo for the name.)

According to the Associated Press, Judge Richard M. Berman has “nullified” the four-game suspension imposed on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

The ruling has not yet been released, and it’s unclear whether the suspension has been permanently wiped clean or whether the case has been sent back for a second hearing.

The NFL has appeal rights, but it’s highly unlikely that the league would be able to block Brady from playing next Thursday night against the Steelers.

More to come. Throughout the day. And beyond.

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Jen Welter: Maybe more female coaches could help limit domestic violence cases

Jen Welter AP

Jen Welter’s time as a coaching intern with the Cardinals has come to an end after what she called a “great time” that lacked “an ‘uh oh’ moment” that would have made having a female coach look like potential trouble for teams who might consider adding one as an intern or permanent member of their staff in the future.

Welter said that Cardinals players were “receptive” to her this summer and that the experience left her wondering if there’s a way that female coaches could help teams off the field as well. Welter noted during an interview with Katie Couric of Yahoo that while domestic violence is a societal problem rather than just one in the NFL, there’s an opportunity for the league to do better and she wonders if female coaches could help on that front.

“We put them up as role models so people are watching, and for good or for bad there’s an opportunity to deal with this,” Welter said. “I think if you saw the reaction that maybe my players had to having a female coach and loving it… maybe there’s a need for more of that. You have an opportunity to make them better men and not just better football players, and ultimately that is the goal.”

That may be part of the goal, but no football coaches are going to be employed long if they aren’t getting their players better and winning games. Off-field problems are embarrassing, but plenty of football coaches at all levels of the game have survived them as long as their teams have succeeded on the field.

That’s not to say that she’s wrong about a potential benefit, especially when suspensions for domestic violence crimes can hurt a team’s chances of winning. It’s just that it would take more female coaches and a lot more time to prove any correlation, and there aren’t many coaches that have enough of the latter to make exploring it a high priority.

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No league punishment for Jamison Crowder after abuse allegation

Jamison Crowder AP

Given the current state of professional football in Washington, even the absence of bad news is considered good news.

According to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports, a league spokesman said that Washington wide receiver Jamison Crowder would not face league discipline for the allegation of domestic violence he faced in June.

The fourth-round pick from Duke was accused of hitting a former girlfriend in a post on his own social media account, but his agent denied the allegations and said he was hacked.

The post was deleted, and no charges were filed against Crowder. The fact the league turned up nothing through it’s own investigation lends credence to the agent’s denial.

Crowder missed the first two preseason games with a hamstring injury, but caught a touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins last week.

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Jon Gruden: Kirk Cousins has to take better care of the football

Jon Gruden, Jay Gruden AP

The brother of Washington coach Jay Gruden says quarterback Kirk Cousins had better learn to stop throwing so many interceptions.

“He’s just got to prove he can take better care of the football,” Jon Gruden said on an ESPN Monday Night Football conference call. “You saw it last year. When he was on, he was on. That performance, at Philadelphia, against Jacksonville was unbelievable at times. But he proved that the turnovers, the inconsistency weren’t good enough.”

No quarterback has turned the ball over more often than Cousins in the last two seasons, and Jon is right that his brother’s new starting quarterback simply has to improve.

But Jon, who has been a Cousins fan since before his brother was Washington’s coach, thinks Cousins will improve.

“I liked Cousins coming out of Michigan State for the same reason a lot of coaches did,” Jon Gruden said. “He was a three‑time captain. He had prototype size. I think now that he is the starter and is going to get the majority of the reps, he has a chance to tune‑up the offense to suit his strengths and the things that he likes. There will be more input and more opportunities to reverse things and get things right. I don’t care what anybody says, I think repetition is the mother of learning. You have to have that for your quarterback.”

Cousins hasn’t had many reps with the first-string offense in his NFL career. He’ll get those reps now. How long he lasts as the starter will depend largely on how often he throws interceptions.

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