HOUSTON (Reuters) - Roger Goodell is happy to let Deflategate go but it was clear on Wednesday some others are not yet ready to move on as the NFL commissioner was grilled about his motives around the deflated football scandal.
More than two years after New England quarterback Tom Brady was accused of tampering with footballs used during the AFC Championship game, Patriots fans still bristle at the cheating accusations directed at them.
After a probe determined Brady was “generally aware” of a plot to break rules, followed by months of appeals, the book on Deflategate appeared to finally close when the future Hall of Famer was suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season.
But Patriots fans still have questions and media demanded answers, if not an apology, from Goodell during his annual state of the league address ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl between the Patriots and Atlanta Falcons.
“We are moving on from that,” said Goodell. “That’s part of our history, but it’s something that we are comfortable with the process, the decision. We’re focusing on the game now.”
Since Deflategate the Patriots have won a Super Bowl and on Sunday they will be seeking a fifth NFL title. But despite the wins it is the loss to Goodell and the NFL in Deflategate litigation that haunts Patriots supporters.
While the media were willing let go of some issues that have dominated Goodell’s Super Bowl news conference in recent years Deflategate has not been one of them.
There was not a single question about concussions, long a hot-button subject in the NFL, or any inquiries into a possible expansion team in London.
But after two years of Watergate-type coverage there were still answers needed.
Did Goodell get bad advice? Why hasn’t he attended a Patriots home game since the investigation, and was Goodell still at war with the Patriots and their fans?
For his part, Goodell said he holds no grudges and, should the Patriots prevail on Sunday, would have no problem handing the Vince Lombardi Trophy over to Brady or owner Robert Kraft.
“They are an extraordinary organization and they are extraordinary people, in my opinion,” said Goodell.
“I’m not afraid of a disagreement and I don’t think disagreement leads to distrust or hatred. It’s a
“You take your disagreements, you find a common place, and you move forward.”
Editing by Frank Pingue