It seemed like an impossible task, stretching the mid-January uproar over allegations that the Patriots had deflated footballs into enough fuel for an entire six-month off-season's supply of debate and intrigue, but the NFL has never shied away from a challenge. This week's announcement that the league would uphold Tom Brady's four-game suspension ensured that training camps around the country would open in the shadow of the league's ongoing war of words with Brady and the players' union.
On this week's episode of the Audibles Podcast, SI.com's John DePetro, Chris Burke and Doug Farrar discuss who's to blame for the Deflategate saga and continue to unpack the story that just won't go away before looking ahead to the other storylines to watch early on in training camp.
You can listen to the podcast below and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.
GALLERY: Tom Brady and controversy
Tom Brady and Controversy
With commissioner Roger Goodell refusing to reduce Tom Brady's four-game suspension for his role in the Patriots using deliberately deflated footballs in the 2014 AFC Championship Game, here's a look back at Brady and controversy.
Tom Brady drew a $10,000 fine for a cleats up slide late in the first half of the 2013 AFC Championship Game. Brady slid to avoid a hit from Ravens safety Ed Reed with his right foot high and cleats exposed to Reed, almost like a baseball player breaking up a double play. "You've got to keep the legs down," said Ravens safety Bernard Pollard. "We all know and understand what's going on there. When you come sliding, and your leg is up in the air trying to kick somebody, that's bull crap."
A triumphant Richard Sherman taunted Brady after Seattle beat the Patriots on Oct. 14, 2014. Sherman intercepted Brady in the third quarter, which prompted Brady to tell the second-year cornerback to "see him after the game when they win," Sherman said. When the Seahawks came out on top, Sherman called the Patriots "a gimmick offense" and posted a photo of himself with a dejected Brady, along with the caption "U MAD BRO?"
On second-and-11 with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLVI, Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker found some space on a go route but couldn't haul in the pass from Tom Brady. Although Brady's throw was high and to Welker's outside shoulder, the pass hit Welker in the hands, leading to a debate weeks after the game over who was more at fault, Brady or Welker. The New York Giants took advantage of the miscue to come back and defeat the Patriots 21-17.
Following the Super Bowl XLVI loss to the Giants, Brady's wife, Gisele Bunchen, vented her frustrations with the play of her husband's receivers. After being heckled by Giants fans while waiting for an elevator, Bundchen told people in her group, "My husband cannot f-----g throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can't believe they dropped the ball so many times." Bundchen's remark was caught on video and posted to the insider.com, a gossip website.
Before New England's 2011 home opener, Brady had a message for Patriots fans to ensure the team has a strong home-field advantage. "Start drinking early," Brady said. "Get nice and rowdy. It's a 4:15 game, a lot of time to get lubed up." Quick to avoid promoting heavy drinking, the Patriots attempted to clarify that Brady meant "Stay hydrated, drink a lot of water. Be loud, drink responsibly."
While it may be no surprise Brady wouldn't have fond feelings for the rival New York Jets, the quarterback made clear how he felt about them when asked if he was watching their season of the HBO series "Hard Knocks" in 2010. "I hate the Jets," Brady told WEEI 93.7 FM, a Boston sports radio station. "So I refuse to support that show."
Brady expressed his disappointment with the Patriots faithful after New England's 2010 home opener. "The road environment is very different than our friendly home crowd who, when I looked up, half the stadium was gone when we were up 21 points in the early fourth quarter -- which I wasn't so happy about," Brady said after the game. "I don't think Jets fans leave early. They're going to be loud the whole game."
Brady had a little fun with his least favorite team in 2010, when the Patriots dominated the Jets 45-3. The New England quarterback jawed at the New York sideline after two touchdowns, including once in the direction of Jets head coach Rex Ryan. Ryan was not amused with Brady's taunts. "[Brady] took a shot at me by his antics on the field," Ryan said. "He always points [to everybody] after he scores."
In the last of Brady's memorable dustups with Gang Green, the quarterback took some added satisfaction in the success of Danny Woodhead because the running back had been released by the Jets prior to joining the Patriots. "We saw him [his first week] in practice, what he was capable of doing, and said, 'Why did the Jets release that guy?'" Brady said after Woodhead scored two touchdowns against the Bills on Nov. 11, 2012. "They had him playing receiver, and he was a running back in college."
Never has the distinction between "attempting to tuck" and "has tucked" been more controversial than in the AFC divisional playoff game between the Patriots and Raiders on Jan. 19, 2002. With the Patriots driving toward a game-tying field goal, cornerback Charles Woodson knocked the ball from Brady's hands, and linebacker Greg Biekert recovered it. The game-sealing fumble was overturned however, when upon review the referees ruled that Brady was still in the process of tucking the ball even though it had already made contact with his non-throwing, left hand. The Patriots won the game in overtime, while the Raiders fumed.
It may be hard to recall now, but Brady wasn't always the quarterback icon he is considered today. Head coach Bill Belichick had quite the quarterback controversy in 2001, when the second-year quarterback Brady shined while filling in for an injured Drew Bledsoe. After Brady led the Patriots to a 5-2 record following their 0-2 start under Bledsoe, Belichick stuck with Brady even after the three-time Pro Bowl incumbent was healthy again. Perhaps controversial at the time, the move clearly paid off for the Patriots.