Nearly two weeks ago, responding to the Ted Wells Report on #DeflateGate, Patriots owner Robert Kraft seemed to throw up his hands at its findings, saying “fighting the league and extending this debate would prove to be futile.”
Then came his lawyer’s 20,000-word rebuttal, which included such gems as Jim McNally calling himself the Deflator because he was fat.
But now, Kraft himself sounds like a man not content with a futile gesture, and one deeply bothered by the league’s ruling.
“This whole thing has been very disturbing,” Kraft told Peter King of The MMQB. “I’m still thinking things out very carefully. But when you work for something your whole life …
“I just get really worked up. To receive the harshest penalty in league history is just not fair. The anger and frustration with this process, to me, it wasn’t fair. If we’re giving all the power to the NFL and the office of the commissioner, this is something that can happen to all 32 teams. We need to have fair and balanced investigating and reporting. But in this report, every inference went against us, . . . inferences from ambiguous, circumstantial evidence all went against us. That’s the thing that really bothers me.
“If they want to penalize us because there’s an aroma around this? That’s what this feels like. If you don’t have the so-called smoking gun, it really is frustrating. And they don’t have it. This thing never should have risen to this level.”
Kraft defended quarterback Tom Brady vigorously, saying he sat with him early in the process, and told him: “If you did it, let’s just deal with it and take our hit and move on.”
Brady convinced him, but nothing in the Wells Report rises to the level of what Kraft would consider a smoking gun. Given the severe penalties (Brady suspended four games, the team losing first- and fourth-round picks and $1 million), he thinks there ought to be one.
Kraft said this was different than SpyGate (we’ve added hashtags since then, but haven’t found a better suffix), when the league punished them less severely for taping opposing coaches on the sidelines. Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, the team $250,000 and they lost a first-rounder as well.
“Last time,” said Kraft, “there was no dispute about the facts. The team admittedly said what happened. … It was illegal to videotape [the opposing sidelines], and in the end we admitted it and took our penance. This is very different. In 2007, we did something and acknowledged the fact of what was done. This is an accusation of wrongdoing, without proof.”
And that seems to have put a frost on what had been one of the warmer relationships between an owner and commissioner Roger Goodell.
Asked about their current status, Kraft replied: “You’ll have to ask him.”
So, it should be an interesting meeting this week in San Francisco.