FOXBORO (CBS) — It was a celebration 10 years in the making, and nothing — not rainy weather, and certainly not an offseason that forced the quarterback into federal court — was going to take away from this one.
After enduring what was arguably the most bizarre offseason any championship team has ever had to face in professional sports, the New England Patriots threw on their party hats on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium, raising their fourth Super Bowl banner high above the south end zone.
The rain, which fell heavily at times in the hours leading up to kickoff, stopped in time for the pregame festivities to go off without a hitch.
The Dropkick Murphys got things started, taking the north end zone stage as a “We Are All Patriots” flag was unfurled in the middle of the field. The Boston-based band started off with “The Boys Are Back” as some red, white and blue fireworks shot out of the far end zone. The band followed it up, of course, with “Shipping Up To Boston.”
Following a whole lot of pyrotechnics, former Pats Ty Law, Willie McGinest and Troy Brown escorted the franchise’s first three Lombardi Trophies to a small stage near the 50-yard line. While T-Pain sang an orchestra-backed version of “All I Do Is Win,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft made his way to the stage holding the newest Lombardi Trophy.
No words were spoken, aside from T-Pain’s repeating line of “All I do is win,” as the Super Bowl XLIX banner was finally unveiled before the 2015 Patriots took the field.
After raising banners in three of the first four season openers in this building, the hanging of the fourth banner was a long time coming — relatively speaking. But thanks to Tom Brady’s four touchdown passes and Malcolm Butler’s still-unbelievable interception on the goal line, the Super Bowl XLIX banner will now forever hang high inside of Gillette Stadium.
Aside from celebrating the championship, and aside from simply being excited for the start of the season, the home fans were particularly ecstatic to see Brady on the field, suited up, ready to play in the season opener. Brady, of course, was accused by the NFL of being “generally aware” of Patriots employees taking air out of footballs back in January, an accusation that rose to him being involved in a ball deflation scheme when Roger Goodell upheld the four-game suspension issued to Brady by the commissioner.
Yet Brady defeated Goodell in federal court, as Judge Richard Berman erased the four-game suspension, ruling that the NFL improperly handled multiple aspects in terms of its treatment of Brady.
The celebration of Brady’s victory in court was made official on Thursday night, as the fans — many of whom led “Bra-dy” chants numerous times last year, before the controversy — showered Brady with cheers, as expected.
Goodell was not present for the festivities, explaining earlier this week that he attended the Patriots’ two home playoff games and did not feel required to attend the season opener. He also noted that he didn’t want to distract from the game, which was certainly a possibility if he entered what would be considered a hostile environment for the commissioner.
On that point, the commissioner was likely correct. The resulting atmosphere in Foxboro was anything but hostile, with Patriots fans being the loudest they’ve been in quite some time.
And from the team owner, no words were necessary. Kraft let the banner say all that needed to be said in this ceremony.