Patriots

'Angry and defiant' Kraft may take NFL to court

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'Angry and defiant' Kraft may take NFL to court

An "angry and defiant" Robert Kraft is "really worked up" over the Deflategate punishment handed down by the National Football League, and won't rule out legal action to have some or all of the penalties -- $1 million fine, loss of a 2016 first-round draft choice, loss of a 2017 fourth-round draft choice -- overturned.

In talking to Peter King for The MMQB (mmqb.si.com) -- Kraft's first interview since the NFL's ruling -- the Patriots' owner said he's convinced that quarterback Tom Brady (facing a four-game suspension that he's fighting separately) had no part in a scheme to deflate footballs, a scheme he's just as convinced never happened, and hinted that his once-close relationship with commissioner Roger Goodell is shattered.

King described Kraft as sounding "alternately angry and defiant" during a 50-minute phone conversation Saturday, in which Kraft said the league has nothing but "ambiguous circumstantial evidence" against the Patriots. The highlights:

ON HIS FEELINGS ABOUT THE PENALTIES
“This whole thing has been very disturbing. I’m still thinking things out very carefully. But when you work for something your whole life . . .

“I just get really worked up. To receive the harshest penalty in league history is just not fair. The anger and frustration with this process, to me, it wasn’t fair. If we’re 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 us . . . inferences from ambiguous, circumstantial evidence all went against us. That’s the thing that really bothers me.

“If they want to penalize us because there’s an aroma around this? That’s what this feels like. If you don’t have the so-called smoking gun, it really is frustrating. And they don’t have it. This thing never should have risen to this level.”

ON WHETHER HE'LL VIOLATE NFL BYLAWS AND GO TO COURT TO GET THE PENALTY OVERTURNED
“I’m not going to comment on that at this point in time. I’m going to leave it. I won’t say.”

ON WHETHER HE'LL REMAIN AS ACTIVE IN LEAGUE AFFAIRS AS HE HAS BEEN
“I’d rather not get into that for a week or two.”

ON WHETHER HE THOUGHT HIS CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOODELL CAUSED THE COMMISSIONER TO COME DOWN HARDER THAN HE MIGHT HAVE, TO PROVE TO THE OTHER 31 OWNERS HE CAN BE HARSH TO ONE OF HIS SUPPORTERS
“I’ve heard that a lot, but it’s hard for me to accept that.”

ON THE STATE OF HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH GOODELL
“You'll have to ask him.”

GIVING AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT HE FEELS IS THE ONE-SIDEDNESS OF THE WELLS REPORT
“[Referee Walt Anderson] has a pre-game recollection of what gauge he used, and it’s disregarded, and the [Wells] Report just assumes he uses the other gauge. Footballs have never been measured at halftime of any other game in NFL history. They have no idea how much footballs go down in cold weather or expand in warm weather. There is just no evidence that tampering with the footballs ever happened.”

ON IF BRADY SAID HE WAS INNOCENT
“Yes. Because we had the discussion -- if you did it, let’s just deal with it and take our hit and move on. I’ve known Tommy 16 years, almost half his life. He’s a man, and he’s always been honest with me, and I trust him. I believed what he told me. He has never lied to me, and I have found no hard or conclusive evidence to the contrary.”

ON WHETHER OR NOT HE OR COACH BILL BELICHICK WERE AWARE OF ANY BALL DOCTORING
“I’m telling you, Bill didn’t know about it, and I didn’t know about it."

ON HOW BELICHICK IS RESPONDING TO THE ISSUE
“I’m really happy that his focus is building a roster for the 2015 team and preparing for the challenges of the 2015 season. I especially respect this about his leadership style -- he really can compartmentalize, and that’s what he’s doing here.”

ON WHY THE PATRIOTS ARE FIGHTING THIS WHEN THEY ACCEPTED THE 2007 SPYGATE PENALTIES
“Last time there was no dispute about the facts. The team admittedly said what happened. . . . It was illegal to videotape [the opposing sidelines], and in the end we admitted it and took our penance. This is very different. In 2007, we did something and acknowledged the fact of what was done. This is an accusation of wrongdoing, without proof.”

Kraft and Goodell will have their first face-to-face meeting since the sanctions were imposed this week, during the NFL owners' meetings in San Francisco. King, however, writes that "Kraft won’t be ready for any olive branches . . . The tone of Kraft’s voice made it sound like it’s too early for peace talks."

Also from King: "Asked why he suspended club employees John Jastremski and Jim McNally despite fiercely proclaiming his organization’s innocence, Kraft refused comment -- for what he claimed were a variety of reasons."

Patriots' Phillip Dorsett remembers former Colts QB Andrew Luck as an 'amazing teammate'

Patriots' Phillip Dorsett remembers former Colts QB Andrew Luck as an 'amazing teammate'

FOXBORO – Phillip Dorsett spent his first two NFL seasons with Andrew Luck in Indianapolis.

He, like the rest of the football-watching world, was left wide-eyed Saturday night when he learned Luck was retiring at 29.

“I was shocked,” said Dorsett, who said he fell asleep watching football then woke up to see the news on social media. “I thought it was a joke. But then I saw it come on the ticker and I said, ‘Wow, it’s serious.’ ”

The reverberations around the league from Luck’s retirement will be felt everywhere from the balance of power in the AFC to the fact that it’s another young player who’s been laid low by the mental and physical toll the game exacts. 

Beyond the timing of the announcement and the talent of the player is the fact that a smart, earnest and admirable person is leaving the game at an age we would all consider too young.

“He was an amazing teammate,” said Dorsett. “Great guy to be around. Always full of joy. Nothing but respect for Andrew. I love him. He’s a good dude. But it is what it is. It’s football. I can’t sit here and say I know what he was going through because nobody does. But I know it’s tough on him, I know he didn’t want to walk away but he had to do what he had to do for himself."

There are unmistakable parallels to be drawn between Luck and Rob Gronkowski. Both talked of the mental fatigue of trying to get their bodies tuned up just to be betrayed by them.

With both men, the conversation about whether or not they’ll stay retired quickly followed. There’s a presumption they’ll change their minds at some point when their bodies feel better.

Maybe they will. But in order for either player to come back, both will have to get to a point where they feel the competition, camaraderie, financial reward and everything else are worth the cost of playing again.

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Demaryius Thomas confident he can produce at a high level: "I still can go"

Demaryius Thomas confident he can produce at a high level: "I still can go"

FOXBORO – Demaryius Thomas and Tom Brady seem to have become fast friends, at least judging by the amount of time they were seen on the sidelines last week talking and laughing during the team’s preseason game with the Panthers.

To hear Thomas talk on Sunday, you can appreciate why Brady might be a fan.

Speaking for the first time since joining the Patriots as a free agent in April, Thomas stressed again and again that Job No. 1 is being someone Brady can trust.  

“Being dependable and consistent,” said Thomas when asked what he needed to provide the quarterback. “Those two things are the biggest things you can do for a quarterback. Being consistent and dependable.”

Which is precisely what Brady is looking for as a revamped fleet of receivers and tight ends keep trying to get up to speed with the Patriots before the opener September 8.

Thomas, who’s coming back from an Achilles tear suffered at the end of 2018, sounded very confident in his ability to play at the same level he always has.

“I still can go,” said Thomas, who took part in his first full practice last Tuesday. “I still can go. Like I said, knock a little rust off and just keep hitting the days.”

So the explosion is there?

“I can feel it,” he said. “I can feel it certain days and certain days I can’t. It’s a thing that I feel when I play and I still got it. I touched it here and there but some days some stuff it bothers (me).

“I don’t think it’s a crazy challenge (to get back to a high level),” he said. “I think it’s a challenge to me to keep going out and doing what I’ve done my whole career. It’s a tougher challenge because here they expect more and it’s a little different than where I’ve been but I’ll be all right.”

The 31-year-old Thomas said he still “getting the hang of” the Patriots offense but said his time with the Houston Texans and former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien last season helped him get a grasp on some of the concepts New England uses.

There’s still a couple of things I have to pick up but so far so good,” he said. “I’m just trying to fit in where I can and ask as many questions as I can.”

Thomas said he consults everyone – from Julian Edelman to the running backs to defensive players – for assistance on the little things that will help him be ready to contribute.

The essence of his job, he said, is “being in the right spot and catching the ball.”

“I still got some work to do but it’s getting better and better, I’m learning a lot,” he said. “Everything (Brady) tells me I’m taking in and same with Coach McDaniels. Everything they tell me I try to take the field.”

The Patriots wide receiver depth chart is a little murky. Edelman is at the top of it but rookie N’Keal Harry has been down for nearly two weeks. Undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers has had an outstanding camp and preseason but still has a ways to go before he’s got full command. Phillip Dorsett is dependable but is more a complementary piece. And Josh Gordon just took part in his first full practice Sunday.

Thomas appreciates what Brady needs and also the work the quarterback puts in.  Asked what surprised him about Brady, Thomas said, “Just being able to be around him and learn the game. Sit beside him and see him go through the things he does before practice and see him be able to do it at the age he is. He’s still got zip on the ball and still the best in the game at what he does.”

As for being in New England, Thomas said, “It’s different. The way they go about it, I see why they win so much. Everybody do their job. Nobody try to do too much.”

If Thomas can do the two things he mentioned – be in the right spot and catch the ball – that will be plenty for Brady.

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