BOCA RATON, Florida: Patriots owner Robert Kraft revealed that he wrote a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell late in the 2015 season to request the eradication of all Deflategate penalties, particularly the loss of the team’s 2016 first-round draft pick and Tom Brady’s four-game suspension, which is still being debated in a federal appeals court.
The purpose of the letter was to remind Goodell that new information has been uncovered since the NFL’s hotly debated investigation.
“I personally wrote a letter to the commissioner responding to his comment that if any new facts came up, he would take them into consideration,” Kraft said at the Boca Raton Resort during the annual league meeting. “And I personally believe when the league made their decision, they did not factor in the Ideal Gas Law. They admitted that publicly. They’ve had a full year of being able to observe Tom Brady play with all the rules of whatever the NFL was, and make any judgments there. We have laid it out pretty straightforward, and now it’s up to them to decide.”
The first round of the NFL draft is April 28, so the Patriots have 37 days before the valuable pick is gone forever. It is extremely unlikely Goodell would grant Kraft’s request, but Kraft said he is holding out some form of hope because successful teams are built through the draft process.
“I really, I pray and desire,” Kraft said. “That’s part of how you, in this league, think about it, I think since we’ve owned the team, we’ve had in 22 years three seasons that are under .500. You do it in this age of parity, everything is the scheduling, the salary cap, it’s very hard to compete without the lifeblood of the draft. So we understand the importance, and I assure you we’ve done everything we can do that has a chance of success.”
Kraft also noted the Patriots have exhausted their legal options while attempting to recoup the first-round pick, and it’s in the league’s hands now.
“We’ve done everything we can do,” Kraft said. “I want our fans to know I empathize with the way they feel. There is no one who wants every edge (more) and put this team in the best position we can do to win. I just say, you think of the 34 years before we bought the team and just finished 22 years, we’ve had the privilege of going to 11 conference championship games. That’s one every other year. I think eight teams in this period have never gone to a championship game, 25 percent of the league. We’ve gone to seven Super Bowls and won 15 division championships. I don’t think anyone can doubt that we’re not trying to do everything we can to put ourselves in the best position to win and have the Patriots franchise be very strong.”
Obviously, Kraft and the Patriots were disappointed with the NFL for refusing to release data of its documentation of the air pressure in footballs. Kraft wanted the league to test the pressure in every ball for every game in order to provide more context to the results from the 2014 AFC Championship Game.
Of course, the league refused to go that far, and then it declined to make any additional information available.
Kraft was asked if he was disappointed the league didn’t reveal its testing data.
“They did their own testing,” Kraft said. “They have their results, but for whatever reason, they haven’t shared them with any of us. And we actually requested that at the beginning of the season, that they test every game throughout the league and do that. But they chose to do it their own way.”
Vote of confidence?
Goodell’s job performance has been heavily scrutinized over the past couple of years because of the way he handled everything from Ray Rice to Deflategate. But Kraft continued to join the chorus of owners who have praised Goodell’s overall body of work.
“Putting personal situations aside, I think he’s done a very good job,” Kraft said. “He has worked hard. The health of the league has not been better. We have our issue that we don’t think has been handled well, but it is what it is.” …
Bill Belichick was among four head coaches who didn’t participate in the annual class photo during the league meeting. Belichick doesn’t always show up for the photo, but he did take part in last year’s get-together. Sean Payton (Saints), Jason Garrett (Cowboys) and Andy Reid (Chiefs), who remained home to recover from knee surgery, also weren’t present for the photo.