If New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is to be believed, the team is locked in and ready to go with the 2015 season approaching, regardless of any potential outside distractions stemming from Deflategate.
Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald noted that Kraft called Deflategate the “most overblown story in recent NFL history” and applauded the team for “ignoring the noise” while addressing a crowd at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday.
That noise originated from New England’s AFC Championship Game victory over the Indianapolis Colts, when an investigation "concluded it was more probable than not that Brady effectively looked the other way while two low-level staffers, including a self-described ‘deflator,’ conspired to secretly remove air pressure from the footballs [Tom] Brady used in the first half,” according to Bob Hohler of the Boston Globe.
As a result, Tom Brady was suspended for four games, and the Patriots were fined $1 million and docked two draft picks.
That was far from the end of the “noise” because Brady appealed the suspension. The quarterback and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently failed to reach a settlement, and on Monday, Judge Richard M. Berman said he will announce a ruling no later than Friday, per ESPN.com.
The Deflategate story continues to dominate airwaves and will likely continue to do so even after the regular season begins.
New England opens its season Thursday, Sept. 10, against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a contest that would be difficult even if the team were at full strength. It will prove to be a testament to head coach Bill Belichick’s ability to keep his team focused if the Patriots find a way to beat the Steelers despite the constant questions and attention they faced throughout the offseason surrounding Deflategate.
To Brady’s credit, he seems to have a sense of humor about the whole thing, per Guregian:
Brady’s assumed replacement for those first four games (if the suspension is upheld) is quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. How the youngster, who has only 27 NFL passing attempts in his career, handles the increased scrutiny in the early going will likely determine New England’s initial record.
The quarterback appeared to have the right attitude, which underscores Kraft’s comments about ignoring the noise, per Mike Reiss of ESPN.com: “You have to come into this, whether you’re a starter or backup, with a starter mentality. You never know when your number is going to get called.”
The Patriots are the defending Super Bowl champions and are accustomed to playing under the bright spotlight, even if it is typically for on-field victories instead of courtroom appearances. They have apparently avoided the pitfalls of distraction and are ready for the start of another high-profile season.