SAN FRANCISCO — Robert Kraft and the New England Patriots are moving on and have decided to accept the NFL’s punishment for Deflategate.
Kraft read from a prepared statement Tuesday at the Ritz-Carlton as the NFL Spring Meeting is set to begin. Kraft specified that he was “reluctantly” accepting but still doesn’t agree with the league’s discipline, handed out by NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent. The Patriots will forfeit a first-round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth-rounder in 2017. They also were fined $1 million.
The Patriots’ choice to accept the punishment doesn’t affect quarterback Tom Brady’s appeal, the NFL Players Association announced.
Read Kraft’s full five-minute statement:
“It’s been an emotionally charged couple of weeks as all of you know, and I’ve been considering what my options are,” Kraft said. “And throughout this whole process there have been two polarizing audiences. At one end of the spectrum we’ve had Patriots fans throughout the country who have been so supportive and really inspirational to us and believing in us. But, also mindful, at the other end of the spectrum, there are fans who feel just the opposite. And what I’ve learned is the ongoing rhetoric continues to galvanize both camps. And I don’t see that changing, and they will never agree.
“But the one thing that we all can agree upon is the entire process has taken way too long. And I don’t think anyone can believe that after four months of the AFC Championship Game, we are still talking about air pressure and the PSI in footballs. I think I made it clear when the report came out that I didn’t think it was fair. There was no hard evidence, and everything was circumstantial. And at the same time, when the discipline came out, I felt it was way over the top. It was unreasonable and unprecedented, in my opinion.
“So I have two options: I can try to end it, or extend it. And I have given a lot of thought to both options. The first thing that came to mind is 21 years ago, I had the privilege of going to a meeting similar to what we have here, in Orlando, and being welcomed in an NFL owners’ meeting. So here’s a fan and a former season ticket holder, living a dream and being welcomed in that room. And I got goosebumps that day. And I vowed at that time that I would do everything I could do to make the New England Patriots an elite team, and hopefully respected throughout the country and at the same time, do what I could do to help the NFL become the most popular sport in America.
“You know, what I’ve learned over the last two decades is that the heart and soul and strength of the NFL is a partnership of 32 teams. And what’s become very clear over those very two decades is at no time should the agenda of one team outweigh the collective good of the full 32. So I have a way of looking at problems that are very strong in my mind, and before I make a final decision, I measure nine times and I cut once. And I think maybe if I had made the decision last week it would be different than it is today.
“But believing in the strength of the partnership, and the 32 teams — we have concentrated the power of adjudication of problems in the office of the commissioner. And although I might disagree with what is decided, I do have respect for the commissioner and believe that he’s doing what he perceives to be in the best interests of the full 32. So in that spirit, I don’t want to continue the rhetoric that’s gone on for the last four months. I’m going to accept, reluctantly, what he has given to us, and not continue this dialogue and rhetoric. And we won’t appeal.
“Now, I know that a lot of Patriot fans are going to be disappointed in that decision. But I hope they trust my judgment and know that I really feel at this point in time that taking this off the agenda, this is the best thing for the New England Patriots, our fans and the NFL. And I hope you all can respect that.
“You know, I would normally take questions, but my desire is truly not to continue the rhetoric, and so I’m going to leave this discussion exactly here. Thank you very much.”
Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images
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