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Tom Brady can pay back Roger Goodell for suspension

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady poses with

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady poses with NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell during a news conference after the NFL Super Bowl XLIX football game Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, in Phoenix, Ariz. Brady was named the game's most valuable player. Credit: AP / David J. Phillip

Tom Brady won’t tell us if he has anything in particular he might say to Roger Goodell if the two meet after Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5 — and perhaps again Feb. 6 if Goodell is forced to present Brady the Most Valuable Player award.

But you’d better believe Brady would love to unload on the commissioner. With all that pent-up anger, the invective would pour out as quickly as the darts he throws to his receivers.

What theater that would be if Brady can lead the Patriots over Atlanta and earn one of the highest honors in sports to end a season in which he was suspended four games for his alleged transgression in the AFC Championship Game two years ago.

Brady is arguably the greatest football player ever, and he can become the first quarterback to win five Super Bowls. If it happens, what a delightful turnabout it would be for him. He quietly seethed through most of his ordeal, even if there is fault to be found with how he handled the NFL’s investigation into whether he orchestrated the deflation of the footballs in that AFC title game (and perhaps others).

But before Brady expresses any desire to stick it to Goodell, he must get in position to do so. He has to actually win the game first.

“Hopefully, we’ll finish the deal,” Brady said Monday on WEEI in Boston. “Hopefully, we can finish it off and we’ll see. Maybe I’ll tell you [what he’d say to Goodell] after. But I don’t want to get into winning something before we’ve won it, because it’s going to be hard to win this thing.”

Patriots fans chanted, “Where is Ro-ger? Where is Ro-ger?” and “Ro-ger! Ro-ger!” Sunday during the Patriots’ 36-17 trouncing of the Steelers, and you could slice the air of defiance with a dull knife. Brady insists he didn’t hear it, although he had to have heard it, even if he’s unwilling to admit it. But he’s in position to deliver the ultimate response to the suspension, which Brady finally served after abandoning his months-long efforts to appeal it through the federal courts.

Brady already is thinking about the Falcons. “I was kind of just looking at their depth chart at about 1:30 in the morning,” he said. “It’ll be a big test. They’re playing great.”

Matt Ryan led the Falcons to a 44-21 rout of the Packers, throwing for 392 yards and four touchdowns and running for another TD. Ryan, who had 38 TD passes and only seven interceptions in the regular season, has seven touchdown passes and no picks in the playoffs. “Matt has had an incredible year,’’ Brady said. “And I think their offense, what they did yesterday, it looked like they were on fire.”

Brady was, too, throwing for a playoff career-high 384 yards and three TDs against the Steelers. He reached a record seventh Super Bowl and can break a tie with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw by winning his fifth.

“He’s the greatest quarterback of all time,” Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount said. “People can argue, but I don’t see an argument. He piles on stats and wins and everything on his resume. He’s going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. As long as you have that guy on your team, we’re going to always have a chance.”

No argument there. Brady’s body of work is unparalleled, surpassing even Montana, who often has been mentioned as the greatest quarterback ever. But how do you debate the point now that Brady has far surpassed Montana in Super Bowl appearances and amassed some of the most prolific passing statistics in league history?

A win over the Falcons would enhance Brady’s standing, and a loss wouldn’t do much to tarnish his legacy. But you’d better believe he feels he has a score to settle with the NFL, particularly with the man at whose desk the buck stops.

Goodell never has wavered in his belief that Brady was guilty as charged in having equipment staffers deflate footballs below league-minimum standards, and most fans outside the Patriots’ sphere of influence agree.

So Brady was humbled. But now that he has served his suspension, he’s in a position to return the favor.

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