FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Everything was in place for the New England Patriots to celebrate their fourth Super Bowl championship in the NFL opener.
The four Vince Lombardi Trophies were on the field. A fourth banner was unveiled on the facade. Tom Brady was calling out plays in the huddle.
And commissioner Roger Goodell's seat was empty.
The Patriots turned their thoughts from ''Deflategate'' to the defense of their Super Bowl title on Thursday night with a pregame ceremony full of flags and fireworks and a quartet of shiny trophies. The first three came out with red jacketed members of the team's hall of fame, and owner Robert Kraft carried the fourth out himself.
As he did, a fourth banner was unfurled on the field with an image of the trophy. And, up above the south end zone, the 2014 banner was uncovered, taking its place next to those from 2001, 2003 and 2004.
The ceremony capped a confusing seven months since the team last appeared on the field in Foxborough in the AFC championship game against Indianapolis. Shortly after beating the Colts 45-7, the Patriots were accused of using improperly inflated footballs in the game.
What followed was one of the stranger chapters in the history of the nation's most powerful sports league, a saga that stretched through the Super Bowl until last week. After hundreds of pages of investigative reports and court transcripts - all generating millions of dollars of billable hours for lawyers on all sides - a federal judge vacated Brady's four-game suspension and cleared him to take the field on Thursday.
When he did before the game, he drew a large cheer from the fans who weren't taking cover from the rain. That was overshadowed by the reception when he took the field for the Patriots' first offensive series, with fans chanting ''Brady'' until he motioned for them to quiet down so his teammates could hear the play.
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