Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

Kraft speaks, but belief in Patriots' innocence remains suspended

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Patriots owner Robert Kraft is finally talking. But he isnít saying much.

In his first interview since the release of the Wells Report, Kraft maintains his teamís innocence in light of the NFLís heavy-handed punishments for New Englandís role in Deflategate, telling MMQBís Peter King that "this whole thing has been very disturbing."

"I just get really worked up," Kraft told King. "To receive the harshest penalty in league history is just not fair. The anger and frustration with this process, to me, it wasnít fair. If weíre 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 usÖ inferences from ambiguous, circumstantial evidence all went against us. Thatís the thing that really bothers me."

King described Kraft as being "defiant" and "angry" during their 50-minute phone conversation on Saturday. Kraft is convinced that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had nothing to do with the deflation of footballs in Januaryís AFC title game and beyond. He argued that the NFL still doesnít have the smoking gun needed to determine the Patriotsí guilt. He hinted that he may not have NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell over to the Brookline manse any time soon for laughs over tea.

"Youíll have to ask him," Kraft said when King asked about the health of their one-time close relationship.

Thatís about as open as Kraft gets though to some of Kingís more pointed questions. Most notably, Kraft refused comment when asked why the Patriots felt the need to suspend ball attendants John Jastremski and Jim McNally if they did nothing wrong.

Sorry. This is a pretty big stepping stone in the Patriotsí leap to convincing the public that they had no hands in the matter.

By now, perhaps Jastremski and McNally are on a golf course in Hawaii with old friend Matt Walsh of Spygate fame, never to be heard from again. But if Kraft is looking for the "smoking gun," it indeed resides with these two nitwits, a factor that the Patriots lawyers likely knew in not allowing McNally to speak with Wellsí investigation a second, fourth, or however many times each side wants to claim this week.

The Wells Report may have been incomplete, one-sided, and the result of a witch hunt on the part of the NFL. But the fact is, the Patriots still donít seem completely willing to do what it takes to admonish themselves, and that leaves lingering doubt in the eyes of many.

Kraft will only say that the Deflating Duo were suspended "for what he claimed were a variety of reasons." Letís just presume that one of those reasons was for the some of the things said during the course of their infamous texts, and not the fact that they came off as incompetent boobs in their exchanges. "Tom sucks," McNally texted. "Im going [to] make that next ball a f***** balloon."

Then, a few days later, McNally wrote, "F*** TomÖ.make sure the pump is attached to the needleÖ..f***** watermelons coming."

Remember, this is all about shedding a few pounds around the waistline, at least according to the Patriotsí roundly-mocked retort in the "Wells Report in Context."

In that response, the Patriots contended that "the problems with relying on text messages to derive meaning are well known. They do not convey tone of voice. They are not well-suited for humor or sarcasm."

So, letís just assume they were suspended for talking trash about Brady, which is on the books to be considered a punishable offense within Foxborough town lines. Donít the Patriots immediately lose that battle for ignoring the "tone" and "sarcasm" McNally and Jastremski used?

Thatís an assumption, but apparently weíre left with little else to go on when it comes to exactly why the Patriots silenced McNally during the investigation, and why they face not being employed by the team any longer. Why else would they be suspended? Because the league said so? If thatís the case, then the Patriots are being duplicitous with their fight against Goodellís sanctions. All or nothing, Bob. You donít get to fight for your quarterbackís innocence and make sacrificial lambs of his underlings for doingÖwhat, exactly?

Kraft also wouldnít comment on whether or not his team would take legal action against the NFL. Surprisingly, he didnít have an answer to Kingís question if he would remain as active in league affairs, including his spot as chair of the broadcast committee, in the midst of contracts worth an estimated $40 billion through 2022.

"Iíd rather not get into that for a week or two," Kraft said.


Should be some kind of fun at the upcoming ownersí meetings in San Francisco?

Among the topics to be discussed this week are the situation of getting a team back in Los Angeles, and modifying the two-point conversion. But this will also be the first time Kraft has to face his fellow owners, at least one of whom has already expressed concern as to what his next step may be against the league, not to mention Goodell.

How defiant and angry will Kraft remain amongst his peers? In front of the commissioner?

And where, exactly, do the two poor schlubs the Patriots suspended fit into all of this?

Thatís a significant matter that the Patriots donít seem to have an answer for quite yet.

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