New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft slams NFL over Brady ban
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft kicked off training camp by slamming the NFL’s decision to uphold Tom Brady’s four-game suspension over Deflategate.
The defending champs opened camp on Wednesday mired in controversy, but it was the owner who stole the show.
Kraft, who said he would no longer be publicly addressing the issue after this, didn’t mince words.
“The decision handed down by the league yesterday is unfathomable to me. It is routine for discipline in the NFL to be reduced upon appeal,” he said.
“I apologize to our fans. I thought what I did in May would make it easier for the league to exonerate Tom Brady. I was wrong.”
And in his strongest statement yet, Kraft said: “I unequivocally support Tom Brady.”
Brady's four-game suspension for his role in using underinflated footballs during the AFC Championship Game was upheld Tuesday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Goodell said the New England quarterback told an assistant to destroy Brady's cellphone on or just before March 6. Brady met with independent investigator Ted Wells on that day.
"He did so even though he was aware that the investigators had requested access to text messages and other electronic information that had been stored on that phone," Goodell said in his decision.
"During the four months that the cellphone was in use, Brady had exchanged nearly 10,000 text messages, none of which can now be retrieved from that device."
Kraft said the league is performing a witch hunt, and said the term “destroyed his cell phone” was thrown around in a manner to smear Brady.
“This headline… intentionally implied nefarious behavior,” Kraft said. “We provided the NFL with the cellphone numbers of every non-NFLPA employee that the league wanted.
“There are people in the league office that are determined to prove they are right,” Kraft continued. “This was never about what was doing fair and just.”
Head coach Bill Belichick addressed the media after Kraft, but refused to go into specifics on the Brady ban.
“There’s nothing really to talk about there. I’m just trying to get the team ready.”
Brady broke his silence about the ban earlier Wednesday, maintaining his innocence.
Calling the appeal process "a sham," Brady's agent, Don Yee, said Goodell "failed to ensure a fair process" in upholding the quarterback's four-game suspension.
The Patriots used the words "folly" and "incomprehensible" in their statement, then said they "unequivocally believe in and support Tom Brady."
Brady acknowledged in his testimony he was aware of investigators' request for information from the cellphone before he had it destroyed, according to the appeal decision.
After releasing the report in May, Wells said he had told Brady and Yee he did not need to see his phone and would have accepted a list of communications.
Wells' investigation had no subpoena power and Brady was under no legal obligation to cooperate.
--The Associated Press contributed to this report.