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Oct 3, 2016 2:21 PM

After a monthlong hiatus, Brady returns to Patriots

The Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — He's baaack.

And minus a surprise setback Sunday against Buffalo, it's almost like Tom Brady never left.

Despite being without their franchise centerpiece for the past month while he served his four-game "Deflategate" suspension, the New England Patriots welcome Brady back on Monday 3-1 after a 16-0 loss to the Bills.

When Brady returns to the Patriots facilities, it will put an official stamp on the 21-month odyssey that has hovered over the franchise since an NFL investigation concluded the Patriots intentionally underinflated footballs used in the AFC Championship game on Jan. 18, 2015.

A federal judge initially overturned the suspension, allowing Brady to play last season, but an appeals court reinstated it this spring. Prior to training camp in July, Brady announced he would end his legal challenges and accept the league's punishment.

The NFL won that fight, but with a nearly unblemished start to 2016, the Patriots have barely missed a beat.

That's not to say they haven't had their trials. New England won games it wasn't expected to and watched the balance of the AFC East struggle to keep up. It did it all with a roster that has had its issues with health at key positions.

As much as the team has rallied behind Brady understudies Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett the past month, there is also no denying the eagerness in the Patriots' locker room to see No. 12 back in uniform.

"It's going to be great," receiver Julian Edelman said. "It's one of your best players on the team. A guy that leads us. ... Anytime one of your best players isn't there, there's something missing."

The wait is now over.

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