Patriots

An open letter to Robert Kraft

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An open letter to Robert Kraft

Mr. Kraft - How are you? Its been far too long.

I believe the last time we spoke was in the fall of 1995. I was a 15-year-old kid, spending my Saturday morning the same way I spent most Saturday mornings back then waiting for autographs in the Foxboro Stadium parking lot. You were in your second season as owner of the New England Patriots, and in great spirits as you walked by my friends and me.

Get any good ones today? you asked.

Yeah . . . Dave Meggett! I responded, genuinely excited.

All right! you said. "Take care, guys.

And that was that. Not that I need to remind you. Im sure our interaction is as clear in your mind as it is in mine. Feels like yesterday, right? But we both know thats not true. Fact is that a lot has changed in the 17 years since.

In that time, youve taken the Patriots from hometown afterthought to the NFLs model franchise. In recent years, youve established yourself as one the leagues most respected, influential and level-headed owners. Youve arguably earned a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Meanwhile, I now write open letters on the Internet. And I don't want to waste anymore time before explaining why I'm writing this one, even though I'm sure you can already guess:

The NFL needs you, Mr. Kraft. Your players need you. Your fans need you.

We need you to take a stand against the replacement refs, and once again serve as the voice of reality and reason among a group of billionaires who have long since lost their sense of both.

Maybe you've already started in on this process. After all, your Patriots have been drastically affected by these replacement refs. Not that the zebras are entirely to blame for your first 1-2 start since 2001, but in a vacuum things could and should be very different. The holding call on Rob Gronkowski against Arizona. An assortment of very questionable calls in Baltimore. With the real refs, you could very easily be 3-0 (even if that record isn't entirely deserved). I'm sure this must infuriate you. I imagine that the same fire that was on display in your legendary audition tape is now playing out in real life behind the scenes at Patriots Place. This ordeal has robbed you of wins. It's robbing the league of its integrity. It's putting your players in danger. It's threatening the core of a game that you fought so tirelessly to save and at a time when anyone would have understood if your priorities were elsewhere.

Today, in light of three straight weekends of referee chaos and last night's disaster in Seattle, we need you to once again don your cape, and help save the league from itself from greed, from an extreme lack of reason and awareness, and of course, from greed. Last summer, you helped bridge a billion dollar gap between the owners and players. Today, it's reported that the refs and owners are separated by a "mere" 70 million. I realize that it's probably easier to pry a piece of steak from Vince Wilfork's mouth than it is to convince some of your fellow owners to pass up a couple bucks. I'm sure you don't feel like paying the refs either. But you're one of the few owners with a track record of looking beyond the bottom line when the league is desperate. One of the few who can still see the game from a human perspective; through the eyes of fan. And while the owner in you certainly can't be psyched about opening your wallet for Hochuli and friends, I know the fan in you must want to pop that owner in the face. "Nut up or move on," you want to tell him. "Can't you see what's this is doing the game!?"

Again, for all I know, the wheels could very well already be in motion on this. No one is dumb enough to believe that you've spent the last few months and specifically this last month as a silent observer in this referee fiasco. But while we spent the NFL Lockout hearing you constantly speak about how important it was to find a resolution and restore order to the football world, we haven't heard much about the refs. Maybe that's out of fear of alienating the other owners. Maybe you truly believe that the officials are asking for too much.

But at this point, how much is too much? What's the price tag on integrity?

Mr. Kraft, I certainly don't envy your position. I don't imagine it's easy being one of the few functioning human beings in a pack of soulless billionaire zombies. I'm sure there are plenty of times, especially as the years go on, when a crisis arises and you think to yourself: "Man, can't someone else deal with it for once?" But no one else is going to deal with it.

The NFL needs you to stake a stand. It might not be popular among your peers, but it will make you a hero in the eyes of the people who matter most and hopefully somehow help restore order to a league that, in reality, shouldn't have to do much to keep its fans happy, but continues to let greed stand in the way.

We all think you're better than that. We all know you're better than that. But just for fun, how about reminding us one more time.

Get the real refs back on the field.

And let me know if you're interested in that Dave Meggett autograph.

After all these years, it's the least that I could do.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Brady enjoying "unique experience" of road trip

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Brady enjoying "unique experience" of road trip

While being away from home isn’t uncommon for the Patriots - just think about all those Super Bowl trips - Tom Brady believes each excursion takes on its own feel, its own flavor and - eventually - its own meaning.

Back in 2014, the Pats went from playing in Green Bay and losing to the Packers straight to San Diego for a week on the West Coast prior to a rousing victory over the Chargers. That week, many players said in the aftermath, helped propel the team to great heights,.  You’ll recall, that season ended in grand fashion, a triumph in Super Bowl 49 over Seattle, at the time - and maybe still - the greatest Super Bowl ever played.

“I think all these experiences are pretty unique,” Brady said Friday from Falcon Stadium at the Air Force Academy. “That was a very unique experience. This is different.”

Brady spoke about the number of stops the Pats have and will have to make on this trip - from Denver to Colorado Springs then on to Mexico City Saturday before a Sunday night return to Foxboro and their own beds for the first time in 10 nights.

“When you’re on the road like this, there’s less to do,” he said. “You know my family is not here, my kids aren’t here. There’s nobody telling me what I did wrong in the house. It’s just being at home and now it’s being here and trying to figure out a way to win a game.”

Brady quickly smoothed over any possible ill-will at home - why make Gisele mad? - smiling and saying “I didn’t mean that so I’ll take it back.”

Kidding aside, the 40-year old signal caller seemed pleased with the work the Patriots have put in during this long trip. A week of team-bonding can’t be a bad thing, especially for a group that seems to be hitting it’s stride both on and off the field. There’s the five wins in a row and also a locker room that has a better understanding of one another than it did during the first month of the season. But Brady is not ready to make any grand proclamations. That just wouldn’t be his style.

“I think it’s still work in progress,” he said of team chemistry. “You look at still adding a player like Marty (Bennett) last week. Things are always changing and evolving. We’re still trying to figure out what we’re doing well and after 8 or 9 weeks, you start to figure those things out. Now we have to work hard at those things, try to really own them, and use them going forward to try and win the most important games. We have a lot of important games coming up, starting with this one. Hopefully we can play our best football going forward.”

Brady said he’s been fired up for this game with the Raiders south of the border ever since the schedule was released all those months ago.

“I’ve never been to Mexico City,” he said. “It’s been a game you kind of look forward to. We’re playing against a really good football team in a pretty cool environment. It will be very memorable. I think everyone is excited.”

Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out

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Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out

The Patriots will be without center David Andrews on Sunday when they play the Raiders in Mexico City. Andrews, who hasn’t all practice all week with an illness, is one of four Pats listed as out on the injury report released Friday.

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Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, who didn’t play last week against the Broncos is also out, along with wide receiver Chris Hogan and special teams captain Matthew Slater. Offensive linemen Ted Karras and Joe Thuney each took reps at center so one of them will likely start in Andrews’ absence. LaAdrian Waddle filled in for Cannon and performed well last week vs. Denver. 

Here’s the full injury report for the Patriots and Raiders: