And this Sunday will not be the day that absence ends.
Goodell will instead attend the NFC Championship game in Atlanta when the Green Bay Packers square off against the Atlanta Falcons, an NFL source told WEEI.com. Goodell’s attendance at Patriots home games has been a hot topic over the past two seasons, and whether or not he’ll ever return to Gillette Stadium before his era as commissioner ends.
Whether or not he does return anytime soon, his decision to go to Atlanta this Sunday is not a surprising one. League officials have likely feared for Goodell’s safety over the past two years at Gillette Stadium given the emotional backlash he received from Patriots fans over his ruling in the Deflategate scandal to suspend quarterback Tom Brady four games. The length court battles that ensued on both sides likely did not temper that ire and, as a result, it’s probably best if Goodell doesn’t step foot inside Foxborough for the foreseeable future.
In any event, the Patriots will know that if they’re able to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night for the AFC title, they’ll be able to get a chance to see Goodell up and close at the Super Bowl stage, should they win.