NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has stayed away from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., the home of the New England Patriots, since the "Deflategate" saga happened, but he has every intention of being there for the league's season opener in September.
"I plan to be at the kickoff game," a smiling Goodell said Tuesday at the annual league meetings in Phoenix in response to a question.
The defending Super Bowl champions traditionally play the opening game of the following season. The 2017 date is expected to be Thursday, Sept. 7.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft has not hidden his feelings of animosity toward Goodell since the commissioner upheld quarterback Tom Brady's four-game suspension at the start of last season. The Patriots went on to claim their fifth Super Bowl title with a come-from-behind victory over the Atlanta Falcons in February.
Kraft said earlier that he wouldn't try to stop Goodell from coming to Foxborough.
"We're happy that we'll be celebrating our fifth banner, and he can decide whether he wants to be there," Kraft said. "He's commissioner of the league. As we all know, he has the right to go wherever he wishes to go. And if he wanted to come, he's welcome to come."
Goodell was conspicuously absent during the AFC Championship Game in February when he instead attended playoff games in Atlanta.
Before the Super Bowl, Goodell said of a potential visit for this coming season's opener, "If I'm invited back to Foxborough, I will come. I have no doubt that if I wanted to come up to a Patriots game and I asked Mr. Kraft, he would welcome me back. That's up to him."
The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl and after the game Goodell presented Kraft and Patriots with the Vince Lombardi Trophy.