FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady has appealed his four-game suspension for his role in using deflated footballs during the AFC championship game.
The expected appeal was filed by the NFL Players Association on Thursday about an hour before the 5 p.m. deadline. The union asked for a neutral arbitrator to hear the case, though the league's collective bargaining agreement stipulates that it will be decided by Commissioner Roger Goodell or a person he designates.
"Given the NFL's history of inconsistency and arbitrary decisions in disciplinary matters, it is only fair that a neutral arbitrator hear this appeal," the union said in a news release.
The NFL announced the quarterback's suspension on Monday, also fining the New England Patriots $1 million and taking away two draft picks.
Brady's appeal only deals with the suspension and must be heard within 10 days. The team has not said if it will appeal its penalties before a Thursday deadline.
League-appointed investigator Ted Wells found 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.
Earlier Thursday, a Patriots lawyer said the "deflator" nickname used by a ballboy and cited in the NFL's decision to suspend quarterback Brady was about weight loss, not footballs.
Team attorney Daniel Goldberg said the two Patriots employees -- Jim McNally, the officials' locker room assistant, and John Jastremski, an equipment assistant for the Patriots -- used the term jokingly in text messages to refer to McNally, who was trying to lose weight.
In a 20,000-word rebuttal to the league's findings, Goldberg disputes the conclusions of the investigator hired by the NFL on matters of science, logic, and law.
Goldberg represented the team and was present during all of the interviews of team personnel. Patriots spokesman Stacey James confirmed that the site wellsreportcontext.com was genuine, and "approved/supported by the team."
Goldberg's response claims the league's conclusions are "at best, incomplete, incorrect, and lack context."
It denied a link between Brady and the two equipment staffers, and it rejected Wells' claims that the team was not cooperative in the investigation. Wells said the team refused to make McNally available for a follow-up interview; Goldberg said the league should have asked all of its questions the first time.
Among the claims in the response were that Wells ignored an innocuous scientific explanation - backed by a letter from a Nobel Prize Laureate - for the loss of air pressure in the footballs used in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.
The rebuttal also includes claims of other incidents of ball-tampering that were not dealt with as harshly. And it says increased communication between Brady and the ballboys after the scandal broke were just normal expressions of concern, rather than evidence of the quarterback's guilt.
The Patriots have not said if they'll appeal their penalty by a May 21 deadline - a $1 million fine and the loss of a first-round draft pick next year and a fourth-rounder in 2017.
If the suspension is upheld, Brady would miss the first four games of the regular season and be eligible to return against the Colts on Oct. 18.