Candid moments with the owner
Kraft discusses Patriots, late wife
FOXBOROUGH - Robert Kraft is about to embark upon an NFL season like no other.
After helping to save the game by leaving the bedside of his wife, Myra, who was battling cancer, to be a central figure in negotiations to forge a new collective bargaining agreement, Kraft will no longer have his “sweetheart’’ by his side in their box at Gillette Stadium.
Myra Kraft died July 20 at home and Robert is still dealing with the loss, but he continues to forge on into the family’s businesses, including the Patriots. He knows he really doesn’t have another choice.
“I’m trying to carry my life on, that’s what she would want me to do,’’ he said yesterday in his office, where he is surrounded by pictures of his wife.
To that end, Kraft agreed to sit down with the Globe to discuss a wide range of topics.
Here is part of that conversation:
Q. The Jets have gone to the AFC Championship game in Rex Ryan’s first two seasons, and they’ve done it with bravado and outlasted your team in the postseason. Does that irritate you at all?
A. Well, I don’t think of it as the Jets have done so well. I think of it as when we bought the team, there had been one playoff game in 34 years, which we lost to Houston. In the next 17 years, we’ve had 13 home playoff games and we won the first 11, and we’ve lost the last two. So it’s time to reverse the trend. I think Rex Ryan has done a heck of a job. Say what you want, he’s taken his team to the championship game two years in a row. If I were a Jets fan, I would really like that.
Part of it is, you say, we did what we did in the regular season and they come back, sort of almost like we did in the ’01 season when we lost to the Rams in the old Foxboro Stadium, and I think teams have a way of learning. And with Baltimore and the Jets, we beat them each in the regular season and they came back.
Q. But in professional sports, it’s all about what have you done for me lately.
A. I’m very disappointed, believe me, after having the best regular-season record of any team in the NFL and then opening up at home and having a bye week and losing? That wasn’t the game plan.
Q. What do you think the reaction would be if the Patriots lost another home game to start the playoffs?
A. Well, first of all, I’d be happy for us to make the playoffs. That’s our objective every year at the start of the season. A lot of things can happen over the next 17 weeks, that’s one thing I’ve learned. Hopefully we have a D-line this year that doesn’t allow that to happen.
Q. Speaking of that line and one of your new acquisitions, forgetting the on-field incidents, Albert Haynesworth has been involved with several off-field incidents: accused of running someone off the road, going more than 100 miles per hour in a 70 zone; indicted on two charges after an accident that leaves another driver partially paralyzed; accused of punching a man after a traffic altercation; and being indicted on sexual assault charges. When you hear those things, what goes through your mind?
A. Before we bring in any high-profile free agent, I have a chance to meet them. We do our own research and meet them and see how we find them. I mean, the time I’ve spent with Albert and seen him, it’s a lot different than what I’ve heard about and read about. And independent research that we’ve done with people who know him pretty well, and since he’s been here and the conversations I’ve had, I don’t see that side of him.
So in our mind he has a clean slate being here, and what he does here and how he behaves, he understands what’s important to this organization off the field and how we do things and how we conduct things. I haven’t seen anything that would lead me to believe that he won’t fit in. I hope he makes good contributions on the field. He’s a very likeable fellow. I had the image of the NFL Network with that mean mug. He’s intelligent, well-spoken, and likable.
Q. But those incidents have to give you pause.
A. Sure. He didn’t come here for the money, let me say it like that. He’s earned enough money; I don’t think he has to do anything the rest of his life. But I think he really came and convinced us that he wants to play, wants to win, and he wants to be a good citizen. So, we’ll give him a shot. But anyone who is way out of line won’t be here in the long term.
Q. Wes Welker is entering the final year of his contract as a valued member of this team. Would you say you’re optimistic that there might be a new deal coming with him at some point?
A. First of all, anyone who is my height or less [laughing] is someone I have great admiration and love for. He’s just a great team guy and has been great. I hope we’re smart enough, on both sides, to find a way to continue to have him here.
Q. As to your involvement in the CBA negotiations, don’t you think it’s a bit of a sad comment about the greed involved by people on both sides that you, with your wife sick at home, felt obligated to be there and help forge the deal? Weren’t there times where you thought, ‘Why do I have to do this? Why are these people so messed up that they can’t figure this out without me having to leave my wife’s hospital bed?’
A. First of all, I think the group of people did do a good thing. I spent 95 percent of my time for 4 1/2 months [with Myra]. In some ways, it got me out because I was really . . . I’ve never been through something that. But there were times I was sitting and listening to stuff and I did say, “This is ridiculous. I’m moving on.’’ But I went home a lot. I used to fly back.
Q. What was your reaction, while you were dealing with your wife’s passing, when the players didn’t hold a vote after the owners approved the deal?
A. I knew that we had done a good deal and a fair deal. And anyone who was doing their homework would have said, “Wow, we have to close this and do business and not miss any games.’’
Q. Now that she’s been gone and you’ve had a lot of time to think, are there any moments where you regret leaving her to take part in the talks?
A. No. Because I always . . . got her permission. She would always think maybe I was a little better than I really am. She thought I could do anything so she always would put me on challenges, and we had a great partnership, and she always knew how important this was. Like I said, I was with her night and day for 4 1/2 months except for the time at this. I think that she would be very happy - and I actually had a chance to tell her, even though she passed before - that a deal would be done. And that made her happy. Because we had planned on her enjoying the season.
Q. To conclude, everyone wants to know, how are you doing these days?
A. I had a great life partner who blessed me with four great sons and eight grandchildren, and they’ve been the love of my life . . . I was very blessed to have something and I hope more people have what Myra and I had because it would make people happier and a better world. So, it’s just learning to carry on. It’s very hard when you had someone special. We were 19 and 20 when we met. She proposed on the first date. We were together . . . obviously this isn’t easy, but I’m getting through it with the strength of our family.
Correction: An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect date of the death of Myra Kraft.