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USA TODAY Sports
PHOENIX — Hey Patriots fans, guess who is coming to town?
Hint: You can scrap the “Where’s Roger?” chant that rang through Gillette Stadium during the playoffs last season.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear where he plans to be when the 2017 season kicks off in September.
“I plan to be at the kickoff game,” Goodell said in response to a question during a news conference Tuesday night that signaled the end of the owners’ meetings.
The kickoff game is the Thursday night season opener hosted by the Super Bowl champions, so this year it will mark Goodell’s first visit to Gillette Stadium since Deflategate began following the 2014 AFC Championship Game.
The Deflategate investigation – and court appearances – resulted in quarterback Tom Brady being suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season, and the Patriots being fined and losing draft picks.
The Patriots, of course, went 3-1 during Brady’s suspension en route to winning Super Bowl XLI in February.
It didn’t go unnoticed – by the media or Patriots fans – that Goodell chose to go to Atlanta for the NFC Championship Game even though he had been there the previous week. The only other option on Championship Sunday would have been New England.
And then two weeks later, after what can only be described as an awkward trophy exchange between Goodell and Robert Kraft, the Patriots owner didn’t hold back.
“Two years ago, we won our fourth Super Bowl down in Arizona and I told our fans that was the sweetest one of all. But a lot has transpired over the last two years,” Kraft said. “And I don’t think that needs any explanation. But I want to say to our fans, to our brilliant coaching staff, our amazing players who were so spectacular: this is…