New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, addressing a charity function Tuesday night at Gillette Stadium, calls Deflategate the “most overblown story in recent NFL history.”
The 74-year-old Kraft mentioned the scandal at Patriots Premiere, the team foundation’s annual gala in Foxborough, Mass.
“I spoke on behalf of the team and addressed the organization’s position regarding, in my opinion, the most overblown story in recent NFL history,” Kraft said.
Quarterback Tom Brady, at the center of the saga, also was in attendance and spoke publicly for just the second time since the deflated-football controversy arose.
Brady referenced Deflategate, joking, “Yeah, it’s been such an enjoyable offseason.”
After leading the Patriots to the Super Bowl championship in February, Brady spoke May 7 at a Salem (Mass.) State College, his only comments prior to Tuesday night.
Brady lauded his co-workers Tuesday, saying, “The commitment the players make, and the commitment the coaches make to try to establish such a high level of play year in and year out is something I’ve really learned from being here. I try to pass those things on to the next generation of great Patriot players, and sometimes they don’t listen very well, but you just keep saying it — just like I tell my kids — and you have to repeat it over and over and over again and hopefully maybe it sinks in.”
Brady is awaiting word from U.S. District Court Judge Richard M. Berman in New York on the appeal of his four-game suspension by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The NFL ruled that Brady conspired with tampering the footballs used in New England’s AFC Championship Game win over the Indianapolis Colts in January.
On Tuesday, Berman said “the court anticipates issuing its Decision and Order by the end of the week.”
Brady is expected to appeal any suspension through a court injunction through the second circuit. Brady could argue he would suffer irreparable harm by missing several games.
Goodell said in his decision to uphold the four-game suspension after hearing Brady’s appeal on June 23 that Brady intentionally destroyed a cell phone on or shortly after being asked for access to the device by NFL investigator Ted Wells. Goodell upheld the suspension on July 29, prompting Brady and the NFLPA to file suit in federal court.
Kraft did not appeal the Patriots’ $1 million fine and the loss of a first-round draft pick next year and a fourth-rounder in 2017 as part of the Deflategate penalties.
Berman had pushed for a settlement in the dispute between Goodell and Brady, saying it would be “rational and logical.”
The NFLPA and Brady had asked the judge to void the suspension. At a court hearing last month, Berman told the NFL there was precedent for judges to toss out penalties issued by arbitrators.
With the ruling by Goodell, Brady is slated to miss the Patriots’ first four regular-season games: the Sept. 10 home opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sept. 20 at the Buffalo Bills and Sept. 27 at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars. After a Week 4 bye, the Patriots visit the Dallas Cowboys on Oct 11. Second-year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo would start in place of Brady.
Brady would be eligible to return in Week 6 at Indianapolis in a Sunday night game against the team that helped pave the way for the investigation.
After routing the Colts 45-7 to advance to the Super Bowl, the Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 to win their fourth title.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick also talked at the charity gala Tuesday night but in his usual coach-speak.
“There’s room for improvement,” Belichick said. “For all of us.”