FOXBORO, Mass. — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reportedly will continue his streak of not attending New England Patriots games at Gillette Stadium this Sunday, forgoing the AFC Championship Game to attend the NFC title game in Atlanta instead.
On Tuesday, a few Patriots players were asked for their take on Goodell’s prolonged avoidance of Foxboro, Mass. They responded predictably.
“I could not care less,” wide receiver Chris Hogan said.
Special teams captain Matthew Slater had a similar view of the situation.
“Not necessarily,” Slater said when asked whether it was important for Goodell to be in attendance Sunday. “The game is going to be played. Whoever’s in attendance is in attendance. We’re just worried about trying to play well.”
Goodell is viewed as a villain by many in New England for the role he played in Deflategate, and — perhaps coincidentally, but more likely not — he has not attended a Patriots home game since before the deflated-footballs scandal broke in January 2015.
Rather than watching the Patriots play the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend with a trip to Super Bowl LI on the line, the commissioner will return to the Georgia Dome — a venue he already visited this past Saturday — to take in the Atlanta Falcons’ matchup with the Green Bay Packers.
Some additional notes from Tuesday:
— Joe Thuney had the best season by a Patriots rookie offensive lineman in years, and the Pro Football Writers Association rewarded him with a spot on its 2016 All-Rookie team.
Thuney, who started all 16 games at left guard, was the only Patriots player selected.
— Tackle Nate Solder and the Patriots’ training staff received recognition Tuesday for their off-the-field achievements.
Solder was announced as New England’s recipient of the 2016 Ed Block Courage Award, given annually to the player for each team who best “demonstrate(s) commitments to the principles of sportsmanship and courage.”
“No matter the size of the challenges he has faced, Solder’s dedication to his team and his community has never wavered,” the Patriots said in a statement announcing the award.
The announcement went on to note Solder’s battle with testicular cancer in 2014, his season-ending torn biceps in 2015 and his son’s ongoing treatment for kidney cancer. It also mentioned the offensive lineman’s contributions to the Hockomock Area YMCA and his participation in the My Cause My Cleats campaign.
Since missing Week 1 of this season with an injury, Solder has anchored New England’s much-improved O-line, starting 16 consecutive games at left tackle.
“It’s a real honor,” Solder said Tuesday afternoon. “I have to give a lot of the credit to the training staff. They’ve done such an awesome job. (Head trainer) Jim Whalen, (director of rehab) Joe Van Allen, (trainer) Sean Jordan, who used to be here, really poured a lot into me getting back, playing well this year, staying out there, staying healthy. So I give a lot of credit to those guys.”
New England’s training staff also garnered an award named after Block, who spent more than two decades as the Baltimore Colts’ head athletic trainer: the 2016 Ed Block Courage Award NFL Athletic Training Staff of the Year.
The Patriots were incredibly healthy this season, entering the playoffs with just four players on injured reserve. Last year, that number was 15.
Thumbnail photo via Steven Bisig/USA TODAY Sports Images