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Judge still might coax John Mara, other owners into settlement talks

There's still a possibility that the federal judge hearing the Deflategate case coaxes New York Giants owner John Mara or other owners into the settlement talks between the NFL and the players' association, which is representing Tom Brady, sources told ESPN.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported nine days ago that U.S. District Court Judge Richard M. Berman asked the league to reach out to Mara, who chairs the league's chief executive committee, which oversees labor matters. The league rejected the request before it even approached Mara about it, and sources tell ESPN the league and Mara are both still reluctant to expand the talks to include him because:

• They believe this case is about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's authority under the collective-bargaining agreement and should be focused on that.

• They don't want anyone to be able to allege conflict of interest with one owner helping facilitate an outcome that could affect the fates of other teams on the field. The Giants' NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys play the New England Patriots in what would be the fourth game of Brady's suspension, for example.

However, some on the league's side recognize how determined the judge is to get the case settled, so involving Mara or maybe another owner or owners in settlement talks is still possible as long as the judge is asking for it.

The judge has not issued any orders, and there have been no further talks since the two sides engaged in failed settlement talks Aug. 24. That has led some involved in the case to wonder whether he's prepared to make a ruling as early as Monday, when Brady and Goodell are both scheduled to appear in court again.

The league is "quite confident" about the strength of its case and the likelihood that it will prevail on the law if the judge does rule, sources tell ESPN. But there is some degree of concern about angering the judge by refusing to settle, and that concern keeps alive the possibility that the case could get settled before a ruling is issued.