NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has elected to preside over the appeal of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's suspension, rejecting the NFL Players Association's request that an independent arbitrator hear the case.
"Commissioner Goodell will hear the appeal of Tom Brady's suspension in accordance with the process agreed upon with the NFL Players Association in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement Thursday night.
NFLPA officials declined to comment immediately.
A source told ESPN's Ed Werder on Friday that Goodell was likely to interview Patriots equipment assistant John Jastremski and officials locker room attendant Jim McNally as witnesses and that the commissioner wanted to hear Brady's side of the story.
The union filed a formal appeal on Brady's behalf earlier Thursday. Brady is contesting his four-game suspension in relation to Deflategate.
"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 release Thursday afternoon. "If Ted Wells and the NFL believe, as their public comments stated, that the evidence in their report is 'direct' and 'inculpatory,' then they should be confident enough to present their case before someone who is truly independent."
News of Goodell's decision was earlier reported by ESPN and Bleacher Report.
Goodell hired Wells to investigate Brady and the Patriots, and deferred the choice of punishment to NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent. Wells' findings led Vincent to suspend Brady for the first four games of the upcoming season.
In addition, Vincent handed down penalties to the team that will cost the Patriots two draft picks, including a first-rounder in 2016, and $1 million. The Patriots have until May 21 to file an appeal of their penalties.
The 243-page report concluded it was "more probable than not" that Brady was aware of the planned deflation of Patriots game balls in the AFC Championship Game.
Wells defended his findings earlier this week in the face of what he called "ridiculous" allegations that questioned his independence from the league office and whether the Patriots were victims of a witch hunt.
On Thursday, prior to the filing of Brady's appeal, the Patriots attempted to poke holes in Wells' report by launching a website that directly challenges some of the findings.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.