More than two years ago, during the 2014 AFC Championship game in January 2015, the NFL “caught” the New England Patriots playing with a set of underinflated footballs. Deflategate was born and with it one of the most ridiculous chapter in league history.
Even though every credible independent study found that the lower than regulation air pressure was the result of climate conditions, the NFL stuck to its $5+ million investigation. As a result, the league penalized the Patriots by forfeiting two draft selections - a first round pick in 2016 and a fourth rounder in 2017 -, fining the franchise $1.0 million, and suspending quarterback Tom Brady for four games.
Another result of the scandal manufactured by the league office was commissioner Roger Goodell staying away from Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium the last two seasons. Neither did he visit the 2015 season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers nor the 2016 AFC title game (instead visiting Atlanta two weeks in a row). However, 2017 will be different.
With Deflategate coming to a quasi end at Super Bowl LI, when Brady - the game’s MVP - and the Patriots lifted their second Lombardi trophy since the dawn of the scandal, Goodell has announced that he does in fact plan to return to Foxboro next season. The 2017 season opener will therefore not only see the Patriots unveil their fifth championship banner, it will also see the return of arguably the most unpopular man in New England.