FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady was exonerated Thursday.

Well, at least in the court of public opinion that was Gillette Stadium.

To some, Brady’s legacy may be tainted by an NFL investigation finding he was “at least generally aware” of a scheme to use underinflated footballs. But No. 12 could do no wrong for the 10,108 fans who came to watch the New England Patriots practice for the first time this season.

He was greeted with loud cheers when he ran onto the practice field behind the Patriots’ home stadium, followed by even louder chants of “Brady, Brady, Brady.”

After an offseason of being held hostage by Deflategate, Patriots fans came out in force to watch their star quarterback.

Every move he made was cheered. Every time he completed a pass (even in drills) or moved to the sideline, the crowd responded with excitement. “We love you Tom,” was heard over and over.

Signs of support hung in the bleachers. His No. 12 jersey was everywhere – even worn by 1 1/2-year-old Thomas Armstrong, who, in fact, was named after Brady. “His mother is pretty hard core,” said Ben Armstrong, who, along with his son and wife, Priscilla, came from their home in East Lyme, Connecticut, to watch the first practice.

Priscilla Armstrong was wearing a “Free Brady” T-shirt – another popular piece of clothing.

“We just wanted to be around on the opening practice,” she said, “to show support for Tom and the team.”

And not even the rival New York Jets – or more precisely their fans – could ruin this day. About an hour into practice a plane flew overhead pulling a banner that read, “Cheaters Look Up @JetsFanMedia.” Yeah, that went over well. The crowd booed, as expected.

Then the Tom Brady lovefest resumed.

Compete a pass to Rob Gronkowski? Cheers.

Run a bootleg into the end zone for a touchdown (even with no defensive players). Cheers.

Make a one-handed catch on an option pass from Julian Edelman? Extremely loud cheers.

The fans also applauded owner Robert Kraft when he arrived. His apology to the fans Wednesday – “I was wrong to put my faith in the league” – surely won their hearts again.

But this day was really all about Brady.

Dina Medeiros, who grew up in Massachusetts but now lives in Ormond Beach, Florida, was with her son, Alex. While they plan their annual vacation around the Patriots’ training camp, she said it was “so much more important to be here this year. We have to support Tom.”

She said living in Florida puts her at odds with neighbors who feel Brady and the Patriots are getting what they deserve.

“I’ve lost a lot of friends and blocked a lot of people on Facebook,” she said. “I’d love to see him clear his name and get exonerated for everything. Then I could say, ‘In your face’ to all of them. It’s really brutal down there.”

The players didn’t wear numbers on their jerseys or helmets, a practice Coach Bill Belichick began during minicamp. Players said it was to help the team bond, to allow them to get to know each other by name rather than just a number.

Some fans grumbled, others, like Medeiros, didn’t. As a quarterback, Brady wears a red jersey, so he was easily identified, as was Jimmy Garoppolo, who could start if Brady’s four-game suspension is not overturned in federal court.

“We know what he looks like,” said Medeiros. “And Gronk. And Edelman. We’ll figure it out.”

Not surprisingly, Brady didn’t talk to the media after practice.

And his teammates and coaches didn’t want to discuss his situation.

That was made clear very early in the day, during Belichick’s press conference. He was asked about Brady’s appeal, the possibility of starting the season without Brady for four games, the possibility of a Super Bowl hangover. He declined to answer any of those specifically.

“We’re not living in the past or dreaming about something in the future,” he said. “We’re trying to do a good job today. And that’s what our players should be doing as well, making the most of this opportunity that’s right in front of us because that’s the only thing we can do anything about.”

For many Patriots, it was just nice to get back on the field and be greeted by cheers.

“I haven’t played football in a couple months, so I’m just glad to be here,” said linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who underwent surgery during the offseason to repair a torn labrum. “Fans really do help … It feels good to have someone out here watching.”

And cheering.

Football’s back. And that alone is something to celebrate.