Deflategate appeals court to hear oral arguments Thursday

Will the Deflategate controversy ever end?

Steven Senne/AP

NEW YORK — NFL union lawyers who want New England quarterback Tom Brady to put "Deflategate" behind him for good are ready to make their pitch to three New York federal appeals judges.

NFL lawyers are asking the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan Thursday to reinstate a four-game suspension the league handed Brady. They said a lower-court was wrong to rule in September that the penalty could be lifted because the league bungled a probe of deflated footballs at the AFC Championship game in January 2015.

If the league wins, Brady may have to sit out the start of the upcoming season. If the union wins, it is likely he will play. Either way, the case is likely to be cited in labor law for years to come.

A ruling, unlikely for months, may hinge on obscure points of contract law that sports fans may find less interesting than the drama that has unfolded within the controversy.

We won’t see Tom Brady in court Thursday.

In court papers, NFL attorneys have called U.S. District Judge Richard Berman’s Manhattan decision "inexplicable."

In their filings, NFL Players Association lawyers said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was making a "sweeping grab for power" when he upheld the four-game suspension in July.

Neither Goodell nor Brady will be in court Thursday. It is unlikely the court will rule for weeks.