NFL-Brady given thunderous ovation as Patriots open NFL season

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By Frank Pingue Sept 10 (Reuters) - Tom Brady, the focus of the offseason "Deflategate" scandal, received a rousing ovation from the frenzied home crowd as he led the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots into the NFL's season opener on Thursday. Brady, whose status for the first four games of the season was in doubt until last week because of league imposed suspension, led his team to the field then quickly put on his silver helmet ahead of a clash with the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers. Even a steady rain could not dampen the party atmosphere as fans showed support for one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time by sporting replica Brady jerseys, T-shirts with slogans like "Vindicated" and holding up signs reading "In Tom We Trust." It was the first time Patriots supporters were able to shower Brady with adulation since a federal judge vacated his four-game ban a week ago as part of the "Deflategate" saga that engulfed the nation's most popular sport over the last nine months. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who normally attends the first game of a season, was absent and perhaps it was a wise move as fans would no doubt have given him a hostile reception as he was the one who upheld Brady's ban in July. When Brady came out earlier for pregame warmups, he ran the length of the field and then fist-pumped voraciously. He then was all smiles as he made time for a brief on-field embrace and dialogue with Steelers counterpart Ben Roethlisberger. Thousands of fans arrived hours before kickoff for pre-game festivities outside the stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, where the usual celebratory mood that accompanies season-opening games was in overdrive given the excitement over Brady. Brady, a four-times Super Bowl champion who is a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer player when he becomes eligible for induction, was the focus of a probe into his alleged role in a scheme to deflate footballs used in a playoff win last season that sent New England to the Super Bowl. A league investigative report initially determined Brady was most likely aware that two team equipment staff members deflated balls in an apparent bid to give him a better grip. His suspension was ultimately tossed out as a judge said Goodell's ruling was plagued by "several significant legal deficiencies." (Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto. Editing by Steve Keating)