Tom Brady will never say it, but he doesn’t have to. You can feel it burning behind the veneer mask he dons in public. Revenge is on his mind and after starting this season resigned to being a spectator, he now has the final say.
A man who has never been short on motivation, even after slipping four Super Bowl rings onto his fingers, was given another chip on his shoulder when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for four games for his alleged role in deflating footballs in 2015’s AFC Championship game against Indianapolis.
It didn’t matter that the evidence was scarce, the ideal gas law ignored and the league’s blatantly subjective investigation set to prove a conclusion from the start; Goodell wanted to send a message and with his unchecked power as judge, jury and executioner, he ultimately forced upon Brady an injustice.
The New England Patriots quarterback tried to fight it as long as he could, all while refraining from taking aim at Goodell and the league he helps make so much money as one of its premier stars.
But fighting words were never going to come. Brady is almost as good at minimising or avoiding potential distractions that could affect his team, as he is at recognising coverages. In his mind, the only ammo he had to get back at the NFL was in his right arm.
After putting together an MVP-worthy campaign and reaching his seventh Super Bowl, only the Atlanta Falcons remain standing in the way of an out-for-blood Brady and his reckoning with Goodell – the Patriots’ true adversary this season.
It’s also fitting, in the context of Brady’s quest, that less than 24 hours before New England thrashed the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 in the AFC Championship at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, Ryan Grigson was fired as Colts general manager.
Grigson was the one who passed on the rumour of deflated footballs to the NFL front office a day after his team was soundly smashed in the AFC title game.
But Grigson shouldn’t feel alone. The Baltimore Ravens, who had reportedly tipped off Indianapolis about deflated football, were taken care of by the Patriots in Week 14, a loss that helped keep them from reaching the playoffs.
You guys might not know this, but I consider myself a bit of a loner. I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack. But when the Patriots brought Jimmy in, I knew he was one of my own. And my wolf pack - it grew by one, so where there two - there were two of us in the wolf pack. I was alone first in the pack and then Jimmy joined in later. And nine months ago, when the Patriots introduced me to Jacoby, I thought 'Wait a second, could it be?' And I knew for sure- I just added another guy to my wolf pack. So today, I make a toast! Blood brothers!
As far as the rest of the teams in the league, all of whom must have been hoping four games without Brady would finally spell New England’s demise, they were left shaking their heads when the Patriots started the year 3-1 behind back-up and third-string quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett.
There are no more victims on the hit list, other than the big bad guy himself. The only object left is to beat the Falcons and gleefully soak up the moment when Goodell hands over the Lombardi Trophy.
There will be nowhere for Goodell to run and hide to then, like he has throughout this season and playoffs by choosing to stay away from Gillette Stadium in an obvious attempt to escape the thunderous amount of vitriol.
While the Patriots were aligning their path straight for Goodell against the Steelers on Sunday, the fans were raining down chants of “Ro-ger, Ro-ger”.
Brady claimed he didn’t hear it, but even if you believe that to be true, you can be sure Goodell’s name has been ringing in his head for months now.
One more and the revenge tour will be complete.
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