Kraft defiant, loyal — but what if Brady, Belichick are lying?
For argument’s sake, let’s assume New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is correct.
Bill Belichick and Tom Brady had no prior knowledge that the team’s footballs were under-inflated for the AFC Championship Game.
The cause for deflation can be explained scientifically rather than an intentional act occurring under the watch of a head coach who was nabbed red-handed breaking the rules before.
And the NFL should be ashamed for impugning the Patriots, Kraft’s pride and joy, through media leaks about its investigation of the matter entering Super Bowl XLIX.
Kraft defiantly proclaimed this to the overflow media gathered Monday night at the team’s hotel when delivering an unannounced four-minute speech before Belichick was set to conduct his news conference.
“If the investigation is not able to definitely determine that our organization tampered with the air pressure in the footballs, I would expect and hope the league would apologize to our entire team and in particular coach Belichick and Tom Brady for what they’ve had to endure this past week,” Kraft said with conviction.
“I’m disappointed in the way this entire matter has been handled. We expect hard facts as opposed to circumstantial leaked evidence to drive the conclusion of this investigation.”
Kraft isn’t wrong to feel this way emotionally. He is truly New England’s biggest fan.
Before buying the team, Kraft and his family crammed into seats at Sullivan Stadium to watch games (admittedly sometimes sneaking in a kid or two to save money on tickets). He purchased the team against the wishes of his late wife, Myra — she was worried whether the family truly could afford it — to keep it local when there were threats of relocation. He built a Hall of Fame to preserve and showcase the club’s history.
Kraft should be proud of what his franchise has accomplished: three Super Bowl championships and what will be a seventh overall appearance Sunday against Seattle during 21 seasons of ownership.
Kraft, though, also would be naïve if he didn’t understand why the Patriots are being found guilty in the court of public opinion long before the league’s investigation is set to finish.
The Patriots still can’t escape the taint left behind by the 2007 “Spygate” scandal. It’s why so many non-Patriots fans who don’t view the team through red, white and blue-tinted glasses struggle to accept anything Belichick says about this matter as truthful.
Just like when they headed to Arizona seven years ago for Super Bowl XLII, the Patriots continue to take a beating over another accusation of unfair play as the title game approaches. The latest bombshell was dropped Monday by FOX Sports NFL insider Jay Glazer, who reported the NFL has identified a locker-room attendant who took the footballs from the officials’ locker room into another room at Gillette Stadium before bringing them out to the field. There is even surveillance video showing such, Glazer reported.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the ball boy is the culprit in this whodunit. But it does join the ever-growing stack of “coincidences” surrounding the case that don’t paint New England in a favorable light. Among them: The Wall Street Journal reporting the Patriots easily have the lowest number of fumbles between 2007 and 2014 by a team that plays their home games outdoors — a potential benefit of using an under-inflated football — to numerous science experts debunking Belichick’s explanation of why the footballs could have potentially deflated.
None of this apparently matters to Kraft. He feels so much indignation that Kraft called out the league office with which he has such tight bonds that GQ Magazine quoted one league executive as calling him the “assistant commissioner.”
“I want to make it clear that I believe, unconditionally, that the New England Patriots have done nothing inappropriate in this process or in violation of NFL rules,” Kraft said. “Tom, Bill and I have been together for 15 years. They are my guys. They are part of my family.
“Bill, Tom, and I have had many difficult discussions over the years. I have never known them to lie to me. That is why I am confident in saying what I just said. And it bothers me greatly that their reputations and integrity, and by association that of our team, has been called into question this past week.”
For his own sake, Kraft must hope and pray his coach and quarterback are being honest with him. Otherwise, the apology Kraft has demanded will be replaced by one of his own.