In his first remarks since winning a court case in which his four-game suspension was lifted, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady expressed gratitude that he now is eligible to play, but he also apologized for the distraction caused by the DeflateGate episode that began with the alleged use of underinflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 18.
"While I am pleased to be eligible to play, I am sorry our league had to endure this," he wrote in a Facebook post Friday night. "I don't think it has been good for our sport -- to a large degree, we have all lost. I am also sorry to anyone whose feelings I may have hurt as I have tried to work to resolve this situation."
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Brady's suspension was lifted by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman, who ruled on Thursday that the NFL did not give Brady proper notice that he faced a suspension for not fully cooperating with investigators looking into the use of deflated footballs in the first half of last season's AFC Championship Game.
The Patriots open the season Thursday at home in a nationally televised game against the Steelers at Gillette Stadium.
"I love the NFL," Brady wrote. "It is a privilege to be a member of the NFL community and I will always try to do my best in representing my team and the league in a way that would make all members of this community proud. I look forward to the competition on the playing field and I hope the attention of NFL fans can return to where it belongs -- on the many great players and coaches who work so hard every week, and sacrifice so much, to make this game great. Most importantly, I look forward to representing the New England Patriots on Thursday night in our season opener. I hope to make all of our fans proud this year . . . and beyond!"
He also wrote: "I want to thank my family, my friends, all of the fans, past and current players and my teammates for the support they have given me throughout this challenging experience. I also want to thank Judge Berman and his staff for their efforts to resolve this matter over the past five weeks. I am very grateful. My thanks also to the union's legal team who has fought so hard right along with me."
Brady has not taken questions from reporters since appealing his four-game suspension that was handed down in May. Brady's appeal was denied by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and the quarterback then sued the league to have the suspension vacated.
Berman took the rare step of overturning an arbitration decision, chastising the league in his 40-page decision for not giving Brady adequate notice that he could be suspended for destroying a cellphone he used from November 2014 until early March.
Berman also said Brady should have been able to question NFL attorney Jeff Pash, co-author along with Ted Wells of a report detailing the actions of the Patriots' equipment staff before the AFC title game.
Berman also ruled that Brady should have been allowed to examine notes that were taken during his interview with NFL investigators.