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Deflategate official to referee Patriots-Panthers preseason game

Deflategate official to referee Patriots-Panthers preseason game
Referee Clete Blakeman (34) talks to side judge Joe Larrew during a preseason game between the Cleveland Browns and the Buffalo Billson Aug. 20. (David Richard / Associated Press)

The New England Patriots-Carolina Panthers preseason game Friday night will feature more than a hint of the Deflategate controversy.

Not because quarterback Tom Brady will likely play significantly more than he has in the previous two exhibitions, but because one of the officials assigned to the game worked last year's AFC Championship game, as first noted by NESN.

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Referee Clete Blakeman was one of two alternate officials who tested the air pressure in the Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts' footballs at halftime of the Deflategate game after learning that at least one of the New England footballs was underinflated.

The Patriots eventually were fined $1 million and lost draft picks for the scandal and Brady, who has always denied any involvement in the scandal, has been suspended for four games.

He appealed his suspension to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and lost before taking the league to court via lawsuit.

Brady's case is being heard in New York by U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman, who is pushing the quarterback and the NFL to reach a settlement to resolve the matter. If an agreement cannot be reached, Berman has said he hopes to rule on the matter by Sept. 4.

The Patriots open the regular season on Sept. 10 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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Follow Matt Wilhalme on Twitter @mattwilhalme

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