Deadline looms for Brady’s appeal of 4-game suspension

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gestures during an event at Salem State University in Salem, Mass., Thursday, May 7, 2015. An NFL investigation has found that New England Patriots employees likely deflated footballs and that quarterback Tom Brady was "at least generally aware" of the rules violations. The 243-page report released Wednesday, May 6, 2015, said league investigators found no evidence that coach Bill Belichick and team management knew of the practice. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, Pool)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady’s challenge to his four-game suspension by the NFL is set to begin.

The star quarterback of the defending Super Bowl champions is expected to appeal by the deadline of 5 p.m. Thursday. The suspension was issued Monday for his part in the deflation of footballs below the league-mandated minimum for the AFC championship game.

His agent, Don Yee, said shortly after the suspension was announced that the appeal would be filed. The New England Patriots have not said if they’ll appeal their penalty — a $1 million fine and the loss of a first-round draft pick next year and a fourth-rounder in 2017.

Yee has criticized the suspension that was based on a 243-page report of an investigation headed by NFL-appointee Ted Wells. On Tuesday, Wells was critical of Yee in a conference call with reporters.

That report issued April 29 said that it was “more probable than not” that Brady “was at least generally aware” of plans by two team employees to prepare the balls to his liking. They inflated the balls below the league minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch.

It also said Brady and the team were not fully cooperative with the investigation, which contributed to the penalties.

The NFL will go against an experienced foe in labor lawyer Jeffrey Kessler. He has won other appeals against the league and is helping Brady.

On the other side would be NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or a person he designates. That person would be chosen in consultation with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith.

Brady’s appeal only deals with the suspension and must be heard within 10 days.

If it is upheld, he would miss the first four games. The Patriots open the NFL season at home against Pittsburgh on Sept. 10, then travel to Buffalo before a home game against Jacksonville. After a bye week, their fourth game will be in Dallas.

Brady would be eligible to return for the fifth game on Oct. 18 at Indianapolis. The probe began after the Colts complained that Brady used deflated footballs in their 45-7 loss to the Patriots in the AFC title game.

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