At Super Bowl LI, Roger Goodell can't avoid the Patriots any longer

    After a long Deflategate legal battle, Tom Brady (left) served his four-game suspension that was imposed by Roger Goodell (right) at the start of this season.

    Story highlights

    • Brady has the chance to win his fifth Super Bowl
    • Goodell on if he'd be uncomfortable handing Brady the Lombardi Trophy: 'Not for a second ... It would be an honor'

    Houston (CNN)New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft got ready to speak. He was on the field, holding the Lamar Hunt Trophy, after his team dominated the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

    What he then said was viewed as a shot at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
      "For a number of reasons, all of you in the stadium understand how big this win was," Kraft said, which drew a roar from the crowd. "But we have to go to Houston and win one (more)."
      The Patriots are back in the Super Bowl, and that means Goodell can't hide from them anymore. Or at least that's what it feels like.
      Brady with Goodell and the Super Bowl XLIX MVP trophy during a press conference folowing the New England Patriots Super Bowl win over the Seattle Seahawks on February 2, 2015.
      "Deflategate" was born a little more than two years ago, the last time Goodell attended a Patriots home game. But soon enough, Goodell, Kraft and Tom Brady will be in the same location: NRG Stadium in Houston at Super Bowl LI.
      "I've gotta ask you, you've just gotta be as honest as you can," FOX's Colin Cowherd asked Goodell on Wednesday. "If you handed the trophy to Brady, wouldn't there be a little discomfort, maybe, because of all the talk and the narrative and the media? Would you be slightly uncomfortable for even a moment?"
      Goodell didn't hesitate in his answer.
      "Not for a second," he said. "This is one of the great opportunities. ... I'm going to be thrilled.
      "Tom Brady is one of the all-time greats. He has been for several years. He's on the precipice of at least potentially winning his fifth Super Bowl ring. He's an extraordinary player, great performer and a surefire Hall of Famer, so it would be an honor."
      On Friday, Brady said his teammates are all the motivation that he needs for this game.
      "I don't get caught up in negativity and bashing other people," he said.

      Triumphant return for Brady

      It all began Jan. 18, 2015, when the Patriots were accused of using underinflated footballs to gain a competitive advantage in their 45-7 win against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game. The NFL said there would be an investigation led by Ted Wells, and New England went on to win Super Bowl XLIX, in which Brady was named MVP. The Patriots quarterback denied wrongdoing.
      Following the Wells report, the NFL imposed a four-game suspension on Brady and fined the Patriots $1 million. The team also had to forfeit its first-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft and its fourth-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. Brady appealed his suspension, but Goodell upheld it.