New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on Saturday issued a strong denouncement of the bombshell Patriots story published one day earlier on ESPN.com.
Kraft specifically took issue with author Seth Wickersham’s report that he had issued a “mandate” instructing Patriots coach Bill Belichick to trade backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo this past October out of loyalty to longtime starting QB Tom Brady.
According to Wickersham’s sources, this order came during a long meeting between owner and coach — which Kraft claims never took place.
In a phone interview with Peter King of The MMQB, Kraft called the report of the meeting “a total fabrication and fiction. I am telling you, it’s fiction.”
“Until Monday at the trade deadline — I believe that was Oct. 30 — the last time I talked to Bill about Jimmy’s situation was in a group with Bill, (Patriots president) Jonathan (Kraft), (director of player personnel) Nick Caserio … a small group of us, I think in June,” Kraft told King. “That is the last time I talked to Bill about it. I would see Nick occasionally and say, ‘Anything going on’
“I assumed once the season started, we’d talk again at the end of the season about it. The next time I spoke with Bill about it was the Monday before the trade deadline. He called me on that Monday and said he got a deal with San Francisco, Jimmy for a second-round pick and (quarterback) Brian Hoyer. Turns out they had to cut Hoyer and then we got him. But really, this was basically a second-round pick and Brian Hoyer for Jimmy. Bill asked me if I was OK with this. I was really taken aback a little bit. I wanted to think about it. I talked to Jonathan, who was okay with it, and I called Bill back and said, ‘OK.’ ”
The Patriots also disputed the ESPN story Friday in a joint statement from Kraft, Belichick and Brady.
Wickersham has stood by his reporting in multiple interviews since the story was published, and he did so again when reached by King.
“I absolutely stand by my story,” he said.
The overarching theme of Wickersham’s piece was that building tensions between Brady, Belichick and Kraft might prevent the trio from remaining intact next season. But Kraft insisted to King that Belichick “absolutely” will serve as New England’s head coach in 2018.
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