BOSTON (CBS) – Felger & Mazz welcomed a special guest on Friday afternoon on Radio Row in New York, as Patriots owner Robert Kraft stopped by to discuss a number of topics regarding the team and the league.
A common talking point about the team has been the desire or need for the Patriots to “load up” with a bevy of offensive weapons in order to capitalize on the few remaining years of Tom Brady’s career. Interestingly, Kraft doesn’t really view that as a viable strategy for a team that competes year in and year out.
“Look, we’ve been privileged to own this team for 20 years as a family, and when you think about it, we’ve gone to nine conference championship games in 20 years. I’m pretty proud of that,” Kraft said. “That means we have to try to sustain success by managing as wisely as we can. It’s not dependent on any one player, because nobody knows what’s going to happen.
“Look at what happened this year where we have three defensive linemen who are undrafted, rookie free agents. So the bottom third of your roster is so important. And we’ll have to go through a lot of soul searching over the next few months and come up with the best solution.”
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Kraft said that if it weren’t for injuries to key players, and if it weren’t for a couple of questionable calls late in New England losses this year, the Patriots would have been hosting last weekend’s game instead of traveling to Denver. Michael Felger brought up the Baltimore Ravens, who may have “loaded up” to win the Super Bowl last year, which turned out to be a successful endeavor — and it came at the expense of the Patriots.
“So Baltimore beat us in the championship game last year and won the Super Bowl, and what happened to them this year?” Kraft said. “Did they make the playoffs?”
Still, don’t confuse Kraft as someone who’s satisfied with simply making it to the conference title game.
“There’s nothing more important to me personally than winning as many championships as we can win while the good Lord lets me be on this planet,” Kraft said. “You can gear up, [but] I think a better strategy is to try to be solid and compete year in and year out. … We want to be in the running and do whatever we can to be the best we can be. … We’re trying to manage our resources as wisely as we can and be as aggressive as we can, but making sure every year we put ourselves in the best position to win.
“I feel that urgency to win every year. We’ve been in the conference championship game the last three years in a row. We didn’t play well in the last game we played this year. It’s unfortunate. It just didn’t come together.”
Kraft was also asked if the Patriots have any regret in letting Wes Welker go via free agency, and the owner had very strong words of support for the receiver.
“I think Wes Welker’s a special young man and we were lucky to have him play for us and he should go into the Patriots’ Hall of Fame and I think he should be considered for the real Hall of Fame,” Kraft said. “He’s an unusual young man.”
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Does Kraft think there was a personal conflict between Bill Belichick and Welker that led to the receiver leaving the team?
“That’s a good question, but I’m going to let you ask Bill that question,” Kraft joked. “I’m sure he’ll be waiting, and he appreciates you asking.”
Kraft said he is happy that the league is hosting a Super Bowl in the New York City area, which was something he’s wanted since the events of 9/11. He is disappointed, however, that the weather forecast does not call for any precipitation on Sunday evening.
“I love seeing games played in the natural elements,” he said.
Could Gillette Stadium and Foxboro ever host a Super Bowl? Kraft made it seem like it might not ultimately be easy, but it’s worth raising the possibility in order to help build up the area.
“There are a lot of things that would have to be built up in order to have it happen,” Kraft said, noting an area must have 30,000 hotel rooms to host, which would likely require cooperation from Boston, Providence and possibly Hartford. “Sometimes it’s good to just put things in play, because it forces a community to think about infrastructure and all of the kind of things we’re going to need over the next 10, 15 years. Even if things don’t happen sometimes, it’s good to go through the process.”
As for potential changes in the league, Kraft said fans can expect an announcement in the near future about a new Thursday night TV package.
He also said he thinks there will be an NFL team in London, and that the league won’t expand. That would mean a team would have to move across the ocean. He also said it hurts the NFL to not have a franchise in Los Angeles. Having a team in L.A. without expansion would, of course, require another franchise to relocate.
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“I don’t think you’re going to see expansion,” Kraft said. “I think the pool of players is such that many of us that care about the quality of the game don’t want to create expansion. I think we want every market to be vibrant and solid.”
Kraft also said playoff expansion is likely to happen, with the league adding one team to the postseason and cutting the byes down from two to one per conference. However, he doesn’t want a watered-down playoff field.
“Probably that’ll happen. I think it’s a matter of timing,” Kraft said. “I think part of the reason it would happen is because it’ll make the year end games even more vital, and even a team that’s clinched something, there will be a lot more to play for. But I think we want to be very careful that we keep our playoff special and that the teams that enter the playoffs are worthy of it.”
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