Federal Judge Richard M. Berman challenged the National Football League Wednesday at a Manhattan courthouse on its evidence linking New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to a practice of deflating footballs. The hearing surrounding lawsuits between Brady and the NFL over his role in the scandal known as "Deflategate" offered no clear settlement, despite Berman's repeated criticism of the severity of the punishment.  

Berman repeatedly questioned NFL lawyer Daniel Nash for "direct evidence that implicates Mr. Brady," which Nash conceded did not exist, reported ESPN. But Nash claimed that there was "considerable evidence Mr. Brady clearly knew about this," and presented records of text messages and phone calls between the quarterback and one of the franchise's two employees implicated in the scandal.

The current lawsuit questions whether Brady had knowledge that footballs were deflated during the first half of the Patriots' 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the Jan. 18 AFC Championship game. Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season for his role in the incident. After Brady appealed the league's decision, the NFL sued him two weeks ago asking the judge to validate the suspension, leading the players' union to counter sue in an effort to nullify the punishment. Berman also questioned the validity of the independent Ted Wells investigation into the deflated balls, disputing its final findings.

"I don't know what to make of that finding Tom Brady was at least generally aware of the activities of [the Patriots workers who deflated the balls]," Berman said, reported NBC Sports.

Berman also suggested that Brady gained little from the deflated ball, even if he knew of tampering, acknowledging that the quarterback's statistics were better in the second half of the game when the balls were inflated according to regulation.

"Turns out, Mr. Brady did better with higher inflated balls than the underinflated balls," the judge said, reported ESPN. "You might say he got no competitive advantage."