League set for new season, and 50th Super Bowl

Wed Sep 9, 2015 5:07pm EDT
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By Jahmal Corner

(Reuters) - The "Deflategate" saga that engulfed New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady all offseason has not dampened excitement for the NFL's 2015 season, which opens on Thursday and ends in February with the league's 50th Super Bowl.

The long-running feud between four-times Super Bowl winner Brady and the NFL was just the latest public relations fiasco for the league.

Recent issues of domestic violence, child abuse and the forthcoming movie "Concussion" about football-related brain trauma have all been hurled at America's favorite game.

The accusation that Brady "was at least generally aware" of a scheme to deflate footballs used in a playoff victory found its way into a courtroom before Brady's four-game suspension was overturned last week.

While the effects of the decision are sure to linger, Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots are ready to be judged on the field, starting with Thursday's game versus the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers.

"(There's) still a lot of preparation to do between now and then," Brady said over the weekend. "We're facing a really good team. All my energy and attention needs to be there, and that's where it's been the last couple of days."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick, a mastermind at overcoming obstacles and getting the best out of his team, will have his hands full this season as more than a few contenders appear ready to challenge the Patriots' supremacy.

The Seattle Seahawks came up a yard short in their Super Bowl loss to the Patriots last season and responded with a busy offseason that included signing quarterback Russell Wilson to a four-year, $87.6 million contract extension.   Continued...

San Francisco 49ers running back Jarryd Hayne (38) runs with the football against San Diego Chargers defensive back Johnny Lowdermilk (42) during the third quarter in a preseason game at Levi's Stadium.  Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports