The door is open for the New England Patriots to recover their penalized draft picks, but a word to the wise: Don’t get your hopes up.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell abducted the team’s first- and fourth-round 2016 draft selections as part of his Deflategate punishment, but in the wake of quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension being nullified, fans are hoping the Patriots might go after those picks — either with Goodell himself or in court.
But Patriots team president Jonathan Kraft appeared on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Patriots Preview” before Thursday’s preseason finale against the New York Giants, and gave a lengthy explanation as to why that might not happen, despite the fact that he says the team would most certainly like to have them back.
“I think from the start of this whole situation, as an organization we’ve said ‘There’s no hard evidence,’” Kraft began. “And Robert (Kraft) — at the Super Bowl, when the Wells Report first came out, when he talked before camp when Tom’s appeal thing came out — consistently said there’s no hard evidence. It’s one of the reasons ‘The Wells Report In Context’ was put out because we didn’t feel that the Wells Report objectively told the story of the science or the investigation.
“And I think (U.S. District Court) Judge (Richard) Berman in his courtroom, when he was asking the NFL lawyers questions and he said ‘Where’s the evidence? I don’t see it. Where’s any hard evidence?’ and the answer was basically a blank nothing. And then today when he issues his report, and calls it the Pash-Wells investigation, and then he puts ‘independent’ in quotes — it made us feel vindicated about that side of it. Because we really believe that’s it.
“All of that said: Robert’s a man of his word. He came out in May and said something very publicly that he thought was right for the NFL and he thought at the time that it was the right thing to do relative to Tom, because getting Tom cleared was more important than anything else. Tom’s earned that right.
“Robert, and it’s not just Robert — we all believed that that would help Tom. And I think when it didn’t, you heard strongly how we felt about it: a public apology to the fans about what had gone on (losing the draft picks and accepting the fine). But he’s a man of his word, and we’re part of a partnership.
“So I would never say never to anything, but as we sit here today, it’s not our intention and we’re really excited to get going with this season. That’s the way I would answer that.”
So, it’s not a no, but it’s definitely leaning in that direction. But Brady can play, so maybe it’s just time to move on.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images