After the divisive Deflategate investigation that became a federal case.
After the NFL commissioner forced Brady to endure a four-game suspension at the start of the season.
In a raucous Houston stadium, veteran broadcast reporter Jim Gray leaned in to listen and document the exchange.
“I was just standing there waiting for Tom to go up on the podium [to hold the Vince Lombardi trophy aloft] and Roger Goodell came and tapped him. … We both turned around and Roger stuck out his hand and said, ‘Congratulations, you were awesome,’” Gray told the Los Angeles Times on Monday morning.
“Tom kind of looked at his hand, [then] shook his hand. Roger said, ‘Congratulations,’ and he tried to pull him in, and Tom just stood there and said, ‘Thank you.’
“It wasn’t contentious, but it wasn’t warm. I think Tom was caught off guard, probably expecting to see him on the podium. Then the commissioner said, ‘You played great,’ and all Tom did was say, ‘Thank you,’ nodded his head. Then, Roger walked away.
“No embrace, no smiles. Just kind of matter-of-fact. Tom was classy and dignified and Roger was gracious.”
Gray described Goodell’s effort to congratulate Brady as “more than perfunctory. … He went out of his way.”
Gray, working for Westwood One radio, was near Brady’s side because he and Brady did weekly pregame and halftime radio interviews on “Monday Night Football” this season, and MVP Brady was due to participate in a later postgame interview with Gray.
After speaking briefly and presenting the Lombardi Trophy to Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who railed against the NFL’s discipline of Brady for under-inflated footballs in an AFC Championship rout of the Indianapolis Colts two years ago, Goodell again spoke to Brady, who was with his children, as the commissioner left the stage.
“Great game, you were just great,” Goodell said, with Brady again replying, “Thank you.”
“Tom was a gentleman. Tom was classy, dignified,” Gray said. “But there was no warmth, no embrace, no niceties.”
Gray, who resides in Los Angeles, said in dealing with Brady all season, he came to deeply appreciate how the 39-year-old quarterback navigated and then punctuated his historic campaign.
“It just showed his true greatness,” Gray said. “He was able to stay totally focused on what he wanted to achieve: His goal. He didn’t veer off course. And it would’ve been very easy for him to.
“The suspension was brutally tough for him — very, very hard. It took a lot out of him and his family. He ultimately gave up the [legal] fight because he couldn’t put himself, his teammates and, most importantly, his family, through it any further. So he had to accept the findings that were fraudulent and accept the punishment for something he didn’t commit.”
“If somebody wanted to be bitter, no one had a better case than Tom Brady. If someone wanted to be angry, nobody had a better case than Tom Brady. If someone wanted to be full of rage … but he didn’t channel it that way. He channeled it into his teammates. He channeled it into his own work.”