FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Commissioner Roger Goodell will hear Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's appeal of the four-game suspension he received for his role in using deflated footballs during last season's AFC Championship Game, the league said Thursday night.
In Brady's appeal, filed earlier in the day, the players union urged Goodell to appoint a neutral arbitrator to hear the case.
The collective bargaining agreement stipulates that the appeal will be decided by Goodell or a person he designates.
"Commissioner Goodell will hear the appeal of Tom Brady's suspension in accordance with the process agreed upon with the NFL Players Association in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement," the league said in a statement.
The union had said in a news release about Brady's appeal that "given the NFL's history of inconsistency and arbitrary decisions in disciplinary matters, it is only fair that a neutral arbitrator hear this appeal."
There was no immediate comment from Brady or the union about Goodell hearing the appeal.
The union did not detail the basis for the appeal. But in a scathing 20,000-word rebuttal of the league's findings that was posted online by the Patriots' lawyers Thursday, the team disputed the conclusions on matters of science, logic and law.
The Patriots' report, authored by attorney Daniel Goldberg and titled "The Wells Report in Context," contains point-by-point responses, at times in mocking tones, of the Deflategate investigative report compiled by lawyer Ted Wells on the league's behalf. Posted on a website called wellsreportcontext.com, it challenged virtually every negative finding and provided contrary evidence, claiming as one example that the "deflator" nickname used by a ball boy and cited in the Wells report was about weight loss, not footballs.
The rebuttal also alluded to other incidents of ball-tampering that were not dealt with as harshly. And it said increased communication between Brady and the ball boys after the scandal broke were just normal expressions of concern rather than evidence of the quarterback's guilt.
Goldberg represented the Patriots during the league's investigation and was present during all interviews of team personnel.
The NFL suspended Brady for four games Monday and also fined the defending Super Bowl champions $1 million and took away two draft picks.
Wells found that Brady was "at least generally aware" of plans by two team employees to prepare the balls to his liking, below the league-mandated minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch.
Brady's appeal deals only with the suspension and must be heard within 10 days. The Patriots had not said if they would appeal their penalties before a May 21 deadline.
Falcons owner: Pats hurt selves: Atlanta owner Arthur Blank said there is a "general feeling" that the Patriots' failure to acknowledge mistakes added to the punishment they received for deflating footballs. But Blank, speaking at a Habitat for Humanity event in Atlanta, stressed that he had no direct knowledge of the Patriots' case. The Patriots were hit with more severe punishments than the penalties the Falcons received March 30 for pumping fake noise into games. Blank said it was only natural that he compared the teams' penalties.
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Bills: Running back Karlos Williams, drafted in the fifth round this year out of Florida State, signed his rookie contract. No terms were available.