-- NEW YORK -- A judge is urging last-minute settlement talks between the NFL, the players' union and Tom Brady before a Wednesday hearing in the legal dispute over the superstar quarterback's suspension for using underinflated footballs.
Judge Richard Berman on Tuesday ordered the sides to have "further good-faith settlement efforts" prior to the first meeting since the sides took the scandal known as Deflategate to federal court.
Berman directed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Brady to join lawyers in his robing room to discuss negotiations prior to a public hearing.
Brady was not at practice Tuesday. His absence was not related to an injury, a source told ESPN.com's Mike Reiss.
The league has asked Berman to find that it acted legally when it suspended Brady for four games after finding underinflated footballs when the Patriots topped the Colts 45-7 in the AFC championship game in January. The union has countersued to block the suspension.
Berman has been described as a "famous settlement judge" by Chief Judge Loretta A. Preska, who told The Associated Press last week that Berman is "always calm himself, never ruffled."
During his appeal hearing, Brady denied under oath to Goodell that he tampered with footballs before the AFC title game, and investigator Ted Wells testified that he never warned the quarterback he would be punished if he didn't turn over his cellphone.
In a 457-page transcript released last week, Brady maintained his innocence in the scandal. He denied discussing air-pressure levels with the ball boys or even thinking about how inflated the footballs were when he selected them. He also said he never asked anyone from the Patriots to tamper with footballs.
The transcript filed by the NFL Players Association in Manhattan federal court included the appeal testimony from Brady and Wells on June 23. Wells explained that he did not believe Brady had nothing to do with the ball deflation because Brady refused to provide all of the documents that were requested.
Wells' investigation found text messages between Brady and a pair of equipment managers -- one of whom referred to himself as "the Deflator" -- discussing the preparation of footballs for the Jan. 18 game against Indianapolis.
Although Wells asked repeatedly for Brady's cellphone, the investigator also testified: "I did not tell Mr. Brady at any time that he would be subject to punishment for not giving -- not turning over the documents. I did not say anything like that."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.