Patriots

Robert Kraft case is destined to hijack NFL Owners Meetings

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USA TODAY Sports

Robert Kraft case is destined to hijack NFL Owners Meetings

The NFL’s Annual League Meeting (aka, The Owners' Meetings) start Sunday in Arizona.

It’s a tentpole event (sorry for the corporate speak), the curtain-raising for the 2019 league year. Everything is aimed at pushing into the new season. The Competition Committee presents rules changes. Owners, coaches and GMs sit in meetings and presentations about plans for the new season. Deals are brokered between GMs and agents landing new teams for players still looking.

Media takes its first crack talking to coaches about new signings, draft plans, staff changes and so on. It’s supposed to have that that “onward and upward” feel to it. And the Robert Kraft prostitution solicitation case is poised to hijack the coverage. OBJ, Antonio Brown, the new overtime proposals, how things look for the next CBA, all those will keep.

“But first, breaking news on the Robert Kraft prostitution scandal as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones expressed shock and disappointment over his fellow owner’s lapse in judgment …”

Sex. Money. Power.

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The Holy Trinity of attributes necessary to turn a “story” into a “scandal.” This has all three and a whole bunch of the 12 Apostles of Sensationalism, too – celebrity, sports, jealousy, ethics, hypocrisy, etc.
It’s been bad enough for Kraft and the Patriots brand for the past month. His situation being the main course at this Feast of Filthy Rich Friends is really the last thing the 77-year-old businessman/philanthropist/community pillar/grandfather needs.

Maybe that’s why prosecutors in Florida dangled that, “You want this to go away, don’t you?” offer at Kraft and the other johns not named Robert. “We’ll drop it if you say you’re guilty,” is what the offer basically said – reported first in the Wall Street Journal, preferred publication of multi-billionaires. Wonder if they know when these meetings are. Also wonder if it’s just coincidence that Kraft’s court date of March 28 comes the day after the meetings end.

There’s certainly incentive for Kraft to make it end. Until there’s resolution, the conversation and coverage continues and the chance to grandstand is too juicy to pass up (hello, Senator Markey). We’ll be reporting on continuances and court dates and who knows what other Palm Beach-area luminaries connections to the whole thing.

But here’s what squashing it ultimately sounds like.

“Fine. All right. Enough. Here’s my head. Here’s my concession of guilt even though I stated initially I did nothing illegal. Fans, media, here’s my statement of apology. I now throw myself on the mercy of the league office to mete out whatever punishment they see fit which – given I just admitted I’d be found guilty – could be pretty stiff once Roger gets done listening to all the backstabbing, hypocrite owners who want to see me in the stockade.”

So that option – especially because the league’s shown it can’t be trusted to let the punishment fit the crime – is naïve.

It’s really an intricate mess he got himself into, isn’t it? With the ever-present possibility that video of the trysts somehow surfaces and the easily-conjured images of Kraft hoisting Lombardis we have in our mind’s eye now are replaced by . . . different ones.

When in doubt, the truth always works.

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If Kraft’s truth is that he’s had a fond, non-transactional relationship that was sometimes intimate with the 45 and 58-year-old owners but understood there was more going on in other rooms, he should state it.

If he states he understands his involvement – regardless of the context his individual trysts occurred under – helped shine a light on a bigger problem law enforcement was trying to eradicate (even if they didn’t find it at the Orchid), well then that is to the good.

If he states that he’s embarrassed, apologetic, hopeful of moving on, where’s the lie there? I don’t know why any of those statements need to wait until after the March 28 court date comes and goes, but I was a middling English major, not a law student.

I do know this: absent a statement, absent resolution before the owner’s meetings this story is a bleeding seal swimming along by itself and the sharks are closing in. 

And some of the sharks are Robert Kraft's peers who won't pass on the chance to take a bite next week. 

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Future Patriot? It's time for the Broncos to make Emmanuel Sanders available

Future Patriot? It's time for the Broncos to make Emmanuel Sanders available

What a difference a few hours makes.

Going into their Thursday night matchup with the Chiefs, the Broncos didn't have to be sellers at the trade deadline later this month. They were 2-4, about to play at home, in prime time, against a banged-up division rival fresh off of back-to-back losses.

Denver wasn't necessarily a front-runner for a playoff spot, but a win over Kansas City would bring them closer to .500 and respectability. If they could get to 3-4, it might've been harder for them to deal off pieces, acquire draft capital and re-launch a re-build.

But now, after a loss in which Fox Sports color commentator Troy Aikman called the Broncos offense "about as bad an offense as I've seen," they're 2-5.

Time to start selling.

One would think that would be John Elway's approach, at least. And if it is, the Patriots could end up the beneficiaries.

Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders has long made the most sense as a Patriots midseason acquisition. He's in the final year of his contract, playing for a team that isn't competing for a postseason spot, and he's a player in whom Bill Belichick has had interest before. Back in 2013, the Patriots signed Sanders to a restricted free agent offer sheet that the Steelers then matched to keep the talented wideout.

Six years later, perhaps Sanders could finally end up in New England. With an ability to play both inside and out, Sanders, 32, would provide a lift for a Patriots offense in need of interior receiving help. He'd help alleviate some of the work thrust upon Julian Edelman in the middle of the field, and he'd provide Tom Brady with a receiver who can shake free from one-on-one coverage in critical moments.

From the sounds of it, Sanders isn't exactly thrilled with the way things are going in Denver.

"I don't even have the answers," he said late Thursday night. "Obviously, I do know. But I ain't gonna say it. It is what it is . . .

"You know. You know the answers. You watched the same game I watched."

Sanders did not, however, take the route other star players have veered down lately, making a public trade request from the home locker room at Mile High. 

"Is the season done? No, it's not done, obviously," he said. "We can get on a roll but it doesn't look like it right now after this loss, obvious. That's what everybody's going to be thinking. But at the end of the day, you gotta remain positive. It's the NFL. It's not easy to win. When you do lose, you gotta find a silver lining somewhere. We gotta do that."

Might the silver lining be for Sanders that he could be sent elsewhere? Somewhere where Joe Flacco, who took eight sacks and fumbled three times Thursday, is not his starting quarterback?

It could conceivably cost the Patriots a third-round pick to acquire Sanders, even as only a rental for the remainder of 2019. That's what it cost the Eagles to acquire Golden Tate from the Lions at the deadline last year. Detroit took a 2019 third-rounder and sent away a 30-year-old player they wouldn't be able to re-sign.

The highest compensatory pick Sanders could land the Broncos, Miguel Benzan of Boston Sports Journal informed us, would be a fifth-rounder because he has 10 accrued seasons in the NFL. Perhaps the Patriots wouldn't even have to part with a third-rounder, then, to land Sanders.

The Patriots have plenty of draft capital they could trade. They should have three third-rounders in 2020 if they receive third-round comp picks for losing highly-paid free agents Trey Flowers and Trent Brown. 

Sanders injured his knee last week against the Titans, but he played on short rest against the Chiefs and finished the game with five catches for 60 yards. On the season, Sanders has 25 catches for 307 yards and two touchdowns despite having missed two games. 

Even with first-round rookie N'Keal Harry on track to return later this season, he would provide more of an outside-the-numbers presence, while Sanders could be an impact player from the slot or outside.

Meanwhile, Josh Gordon is currently dealing with a knee injury. Phillip Dorsett was limited in Thursday's practice limited because of a hamstring, and Edelman was limited with a chest issue. Adding Sanders would appear to be a no-brainer for a Patriots team that's a little light on capable veteran receiver help. 

And after the Broncos fell to 2-5 Thursday night, the possibility of Belichick bringing Sanders aboard seems a little more realistic.

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Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes leaves game vs. Broncos with knee injury

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes leaves game vs. Broncos with knee injury

The Kansas City Chiefs could be without their star quarterback for an extended period of time.

Patrick Mahomes left Thursday night's game vs. the Denver Broncos with a right knee injury. The 2018 NFL MVP injured himself attempting a QB sneak in the second quarter and was ruled out for the game shortly thereafter.

Mahomes was able to walk off the field under his own power, but this looks like it could be a serious injury for the 24-year-old. If that's the case, the Patriots' path to another AFC title just got infinitely easier.

Mahomes will undergo an MRI on Friday.

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