The were called fakes, NFL plants and traitors. And those were some of the nicer reactions.
When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made his surprise return to Foxboro on Thursday night at the Patriots' preseason opener, he posed with three fans, who have caught plenty of grief from Patriots fans angry that they'd take a picture with the man who suspended Tom Brady for four games last season in the Deflategate aftermath.
“It’s a photo. People can get over it. It’s a photo,” John Miller, one of the trio who posed with the Commish told Boston.com.
Miller, Spencer Shea and Josh Bisson said they were the fans who were asked by Goodell as they ran into the commissioner and NFL staffers on a Gillette Stadium ramp if they wanted a picture.
“We had like 15 seconds of normal stadium talk before he asked if we wanted to take a quick picture,” Bisson said
Initially, the some called it a set up by the NFL.
Even the Patriots fan who sold the tickets to Bisson, Jon O'Hara, who said he was a Pats season ticket holder and an old high school friend of Bisson, was critical of the three.
“I would’ve at the very least just been yelling stuff about Brady,” O'Hara told Boston.com. “I probably would’ve been chanting ‘Where are our draft picks? Where are our draft picks?’ I would’ve made it miserable for him to be there.”
Bisson said it's time for Pats fans to move on.
“I don’t really have any negative feelings,” Bisson said. “It’s easy to say something behind someone’s back, but the past is the past. We won the revenge tour, he had to hand over the trophies, and I think that kind of buries it. If we didn’t win, it might be a different story.”
FOXBORO -- Dont'a Hightower met with reporters to talk football on Wednesday morning at Gillette Stadium, the first time he had done so since signing an extension with the Patriots back in March.
About five months later, no regrets.
"It’s good. I’m glad I didn’t have to relocate," Hightower said with a smile. "Stressful, but glad it’s over with. Glad I’m here. I’m glad I’m back on the field now."
Hightower, who was removed from the physically unable to perform list on Wednesday, explained that there was a point during the free agency process at which he believed he might end up playing elsewhere.
"Yeah, it’s free agency," Hightower said. "But it is what it is. It’s over and done with now. I’m here."
On spending his career to this point in New England and being a member of the Patriots, Hightower added: "It’s meant a lot. I’ve been here my whole career. It wasn’t a hard change for what I had in college, so I was definitely used to it. So it wasn’t a big change. I feel like I’ve had a lot of success in programs like this. Alabama and New England are not too far different. The culture around here, the teammates, the coaches is second to none anywhere. When it came down to my decision, it wasn’t too hard of a choice."
FOXBORO -- Tom Brady's not sure if he'll be able to get back to Ann Arbor as he and the Patriots spend some time this week in the state of Michigan leading up to their preseason game against the Lions on Friday. He's hoping he'll be able to sneak over at some point. Maybe he'll have an opportunity to talk to the football team.
On Wednesday, Brady described his time at Michigan as the "pit stop" of his life's journey from California to Massachusetts. It's also representative of the midpoint of his life now in a way since he spent 18 years growing up on the West Coast, and now he's in his 18th year in New England.
As part of his college experience, Brady learned what it was like to work a job that didn't involve throwing a football. As it turned out, those experiences didn't provide much in the way of on-the-job training for his eventual career. But he didn't know he was going to become a Hall of Fame quarterback. When the fifth round came and went in 2000, he said on Facebook back in 2014, he figured those summer internships during his Michigan days and the resume they beefed up might help him land a gig that would pay the bills.
"Those were good experiences," he said Wednesday. "I was at Michigan in the summer. You work different jobs, you get a scholarship check, but you're trying to afford -- like all of us were -- our coll experience. I worked in construction. Worked at a golf course to play free golf. That's what I liked to do. Worked at a festival at night so I was working two jobs. It was good experiences. It really was hard work."
And it might have taken his appreciation for playing football -- something he plans to do at an age when most players have been retired for a decade or more -- to a different level.
"I've been so fortunate to do something I love to do," he said. "I've said for a long time, working out and training and being on the practice field never feels like work for me. That definitely felt like work when you're cleaning up industrial parks and scrubbing the tops of roofs and stuff like that. Man, I was pretty tired at the end of those days."