FOXBORO -- When the Patriots host the NFL's opening game at Gillette Stadium in September, there will be one guest garnering more attention than any other. Roger Goodell, who has not been to a game in Foxboro since the AFC title game that sparked Deflategate, said during the league meetings last month that he planned to attend.
How he'll be received has already been the subject of some speculation. He opted not to attend the AFC title game last season, instead traveling to Atlanta on consecutive weeks to watch playoff games hosted by the Falcons.
While Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater is adept at having his finger on the pulse of the team's locker room, he spoke to reporters on Monday and said it was anyone's guess how the commissioner will be welcomed when he finally returns to New England.
"That's up to our fans, how they choose to receive him," Slater explained. "I think us as a team, we've moved on. We moved on a long time ago. We went out last year, took care of our business. Now it's up to us to take care of our business this year. We have a lot of important things to worry about. A lot of things that we need to do to get ourselves ready.
"How should he be received? I haven't given that a whole lot of thought. How will he be receieved? I'm not the one to ask that question. I think you should ask the good people of Foxboro how they want to receive him."
Of course whatever focus isn't paid to where Goodell will be sitting and what fans will be chanting in his direction will be paid to the fifth banner that will be unveiled prior to the game. How the Patriots came to acquire that thing is still almost unbelievable to Slater, who has re-watched the game multiple times since coming back from a 28-3 deficit against the Falcons in Houston.
"I get nervous everytime I watch it like I don't know the outcome," Slater said. "Pretty unbelievable what we were able to accomplish. I'm very proud to have been a part of such a special team in 2016.
"It's pretty impressive. I haven't had the chance to really think about what the impact of that game will be on football and other sports moving forward, but it certainly one that none of us moving forward will soon forget. I think there's a great lesson to be learned about not quitting on your teammates, playing for one another, maintaining belief and trying to finish what you started. We defeinitely showed that during that game."