Patriots owner Robert Kraft, in an interview with the BBC, said Patriots players were given a choice to stand or not for the national anthem, criticized "inflammatory comments" made about players who demonstrated, but said his personal belief that it is important to “respect our flag and our anthem.”
Kraft's comments were included in a lengthy BBC piece about former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the anthem controversy in the NFL. Kraft's comments contrasted to those of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who warned that if his players don't stand for the anthem, they will not play.
Before New England's Sept. 24 game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium, 17 Patriots took a knee during the anthem. The following week Kraft said he spoke with the team and players decided that before the Oct. 1 home game against the Carolina Panthers, they would all stand with their right hand over their chest, with their left hand on the shoulder of the player next to them.
“The greatest enemy in sport is division from within. I personally feel it’s very important to respect our flag and our anthem," Kraft said in the BBC story. "But I also respect the right of people in this country to make statements or protests, peacefully, in a way that’s appropriate to them. I think there were some comments made about what our young men were doing that were a little inflammatory and inappropriate, and I thought I had to speak out. I spoke to the team and I told them that they were free to do what they thought was correct as long; I try to bring unity and bring things together, and part of that is respecting how other people think. Even if it’s genuine, even if it’s different than the way I speak; the way you build team and you build success is to let people be themselves."
"I have never heard anyone talk about blocking [Kaepernick] or excluding him” from the NFL, Kraft said, and when asked if the former 49ers QB would rejoin the league at some point, Kraft said, “I would think that’s a possibility.”
Julian Edelman is grinding.
The New England Patriots receiver, who is recovering from an ACL repair surgery that ended his 2017 season, shared a quick video from his workout on Tuesday. Edelman is shown running with a resistance band and a trainer in-tow.
Edelman has posted a few tidbits on social media to show encouraging signs during his recovery since he got surgery in October after suffering an ACL tear in a preseason game. He was spotted around the locker room a few times during the final weeks of the 2017 season.
"Rehab is a [expletive]. It sucks," Edelman said in November on Barstool Sports' "Pardon My Take podcast." "You go in and you’re feeling decent and then you warm up, you beat it up and then you get stiff again. I mean it’s just a process and you go in six days a week and you’re going into work it, work on everything — your flexion, your extension."
Steelers tight end Jesse James is glad the Patriots' Super Bowl pursuit is done -- mostly because he played a big part in helping accelerate it.
In the final moments of the game, James failed to catch the ball during a Week 15 contest between the Steelers and the Patriots. The non-catch was a controversial one.
James told Centre Daily Times' Josh Moyer he finally felt relief on the morning after the Super Bowl when the Patriots fell to the Eagles, 41-33.
“I don’t feel like I gave them a Super Bowl with that,” James told the Daily Times. “So I’m over it now, but it’s going to be a topic of conversation until the rule gets changed — or it doesn’t.”
James' play was initially ruled a touchdown before the referees overturned the play, and took the lead away from the Steelers in the final moments of the game. Ben Roethlisberger then threw an interception a few plays later. By winning, the Patriots took a huge step in locking themselves into the AFC's top seed with a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs, which they rode into the Super Bowl.
But of course, they couldn't finish their Super Bowl pursuit -- to James' satisfaction.