Patriots

Judge reinstates NFL's six-game suspension of Cowboys' Elliott

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Judge reinstates NFL's six-game suspension of Cowboys' Elliott

NEW YORK - A federal judge cleared the way Monday night for the NFL to enforce a six-game suspension of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott over domestic violence allegations.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla denied the request for a preliminary injunction from players' union attorneys working for Elliott. Failla put the ruling on hold for 24 hours to give Elliott's legal team time to appeal, a likely move.

It's the second time a federal ruling has overturned a reprieve that kept Elliott on the field. Earlier this month, a federal appeals court threw out a Texas court's injunction and ordered the dismissal of Elliott's lawsuit there.

The NFL briefly enforced Commissioner Roger Goodell's suspension before a judge sitting in for Failla in the Southern District of New York issued a temporary restraining order that blocked the punishment for the second time.

If the suspension holds this time, Elliott will be out starting Sunday at home against Kansas City. He will be eligible to return for the final three games, starting Dec. 17 at Oakland. The Cowboys (4-3), defending NFC East champions, are in second place in the division.

Elliott attended the roughly two-hour hearing in New York on Monday, a day after rushing for 150 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-19 win at Washington. Last year's NFL rushing leader left court without speaking to reporters.

One of Elliott's lawyers and an NFL spokesman didn't immediately respond to requests for comment after the ruling.

The 22-year-old Elliott was suspended in August after the league concluded following a yearlong investigation that he had several physical confrontations in the summer of 2016 with Tiffany Thompson, his girlfriend at the time.

Prosecutors in Columbus, Ohio, decided not to pursue the case in the city where Elliott starred for Ohio State, citing conflicting evidence. Elliott denied the allegations under oath during his NFL appeal.

The suspension's announcement led to weeks of court filings, with NFL Players Association lawyers contending league investigators withheld key evidence from Goodell and that the appeal hearing was unfair because arbitrator Harold Henderson refused to call Goodell and Thompson as witnesses.

Unlike three federal judges before her, Failla rejected most of those claims and backed the NFL's contention that it followed the collective bargaining agreement in suspending Elliott, and that those procedures were supported by federal labor law.

"Having negotiated with the NFLPA over the terms of a particular CBA, the NFL has an interest in obtaining the benefit of its bargain - an interest that might well be eroded if courts such as this one were permitted to micromanage the disciplinary decisions of the commissioner," Failla wrote.

The judge also said some of the reasons for Elliott's claim that he would suffer irreparable harm with a suspension were speculative.

"And any individual honors Elliott might attain absent suspension depend on countless variables - such as the Cowboys' overall offensive performance, his opponents' defensive performance, and Elliott's health - that together render this alleged harm far too speculative to justify injunctive relief," Failla wrote.

Failla based some of her rulings on the NFL's successful appeal in the same jurisdiction in the Deflategate case that ended with New England quarterback Tom Bradyserving a four-game suspension. Brady delayed the punishment more than a year by winning a district court ruling.

NFLPA lawyer Jeffrey Kessler argued before Failla that the hearing was "fundamentally unfair" because it downplayed the conclusion by an internal investigator that Thompson wasn't credible in her account.

Failla disagreed, writing that testimony from the NFL appeal hearing made it clear that Goodell was aware of the investigator's views.

She also backed the NFL's interest in timely penalties under its personal conduct policy, which three years ago was changed to stiffen penalties in domestic cases.

Elliott is third in the NFL in rushing with 690 yards in seven games. He's tied for the league lead with six rushing touchdowns.

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The Patriots' only healthy QB offers little insight on Brady injury

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The Patriots' only healthy QB offers little insight on Brady injury

FOXBORO -- Brian Hoyer did his best Sgt, Schultz impression Thursday afternoon.

He saw nothing, he knows nothing and, had we asked him, Hoyer probably would have denied even Tom Brady’s existence. The Patriots backup quarterback has been thrust into the spotlight because of the right-hand injury Brady suffered in practice Wednesday. Though Brady appeared at the media access portion of today’s session, the team listed him on the injury report as not having participated. That would mean Hoyer -  as the team’s only healthy signal caller - had to get more reps than usual, right? 

“Define what is usual,” he said. “Since I’ve been here there’s been days where I’ve taken a lot of reps and days where I’ve taken any. I just do what’s asked of me.”

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So, you were asked to do more today?

“You’ll have to check the injury report. I don’t know if they put that on there or not.”

Okay then. This was just the beginning of a question-and-answer session that provided many of the former and almost none of the latter. Hoyer said he “wasn’t there” when the injury happened. When asked if Brady threw any passes today, the normally genial Hoyer paused before saying tersely, “you have to ask somebody else that question. I’m not going to answer that question.”

There were also a couple of “I’m not going to speak for him” or “you have to ask him” responses. Not unexpected given the nature of the queries but also handled better by every player we spoke to today, from Trey Flowers saying he’s not a hand doctor to James White joking the world will never know how Brady was injured to Kyle Van Noy saying of Brady: “He always looks good. He’s handsome”.

What Hoyer did have a good handle on was what he needs to do to be ready if his number does get called Sunday in the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.  

“I prepare every week like I’m going to play,” he said. “Whether I do or don’t...that’s not really up to me. I did the one thing I can benefit from since I was the backup here - I played a lot of football. I’ve been a starter for three different teams. I know how to prepare as a starter. Whether I’m given those reps or not, each rep I’m not getting I take as a mental rep. I stand back there and I go through and I try to think who I’d go to, who would I’d make the Mike [middle linebacker] on this play. Whether I’m getting the reps or not I’m always preparing to play because you never know when your name is going to be called.”

The Patriots hope it doesn’t come to that. Hell, maybe even Hoyer hopes it doesn’t come to that.

“If I don’t play, that’s good for our team.”

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Brady injury has moved Patriots-Jaguars line 1.5 points

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Brady injury has moved Patriots-Jaguars line 1.5 points

FOXBORO -- You would have to be either supremely confident or supremely behind on current events to place a bet on the Patriots in this weekend's AFC title game. 

Tom Brady suffered a hand injury in Wednesday's practice and he was held out of Thursday's session (for all but the stretching portion), leaving him one final chance to practice on Friday before the Jaguars make their way to Gillette Stadium for a shot at a Super Bowl berth. 

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It's unclear how Brady's hand issue will impact his ability to play on Sunday. The expectation is that he will play, but his effectiveness . . . for now seems somewhat uncertain. And the line has moved as a result. 

The Patriots were once nine-point favorites at Caesars Palace, and they are now favored by 7.5 points. Westgate's line made the same move from Patriots -9 to Patriots -7.5. 

For those who feel as though Brady will be OK as he takes on the league's top-ranked passing defense, this represents a golden opportunity. For everyone else, this is probably a good time to focus your gambling efforts on the NFC Championship Game.