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Thursday, September 7, 2006
Sources: Arbitrator delays Branch grievance

ESPN.com news services

Arbitrator John Feerick of Fordham Law School has reserved judgment on a grievance filed by the NFL Players Association on behalf of Patriots hold-out wide receiver Deion Branch, NFLPA sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen on Thursday.

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In the grievance, Branch contended the Patriots reneged on a verbal promise to trade him if he reached a contract agreement with another team, and that team made a fair trade proposal to the Patriots.

Feerick told both sides that it would premature to make a ruling on that grievance while a special master has yet to rule on Branch's grievance contending the Patriots have not bargained with him in good faith. That grievance will go forward, with a hearing set next Thursday and Friday before special master Stephen Burbank of the Univrsity of Pennsylvania Law School.

Feerick tentatively had been scheduled to hear the trade grievance on Saturday.

On Aug. 25, the Patriots granted Branch permission, through Sept. 4, to seek a trade. The Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets reached deals with Branch, but neither team could satisfy the demands of the Patriots, and Branch remained under contract to New England.

After the grievance was filed on behalf of Branch, the Patriots filed a motion questioning whether Feerick had jurisdiction over that grievance.

Sources told Mortensen that a conference call was held Wednesday night between the sides and there was a discussion regarding the Patriots' claim that Feerick did not have jurisdiction, but Feerick did not address that issue Thursday.