BOSTON (CBS) — New England Patriots president Jonathan Kraft was on a conference call Thursday morning when he saw the news flash that Judge Richard Berman had vacated Tom Brady’s four-game DeflateGate suspension.
That conference call was obviously cut short.
“I yelled out an expletive and told the people on the phone goodbye, and we started from there,” Kraft told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Marc Bertrand and Chris Gasper on Patriots Preview Thursday night.
It was a big sigh of relief for everyone in the organization, as the news meant Brady would be the Patriots starting quarterback when they kick off the 2015 NFL season against the Pittsburgh Steelers next Thursday.
It’s even bigger for Brady, who can now focus squarely on football rather than any upcoming dates in court.
“[Brady] likes to just be focused on getting ready for the season, and he’s missed some days with the team. No matter how strong you are mentally, when you’ve got that going on it takes away from it,” said Kraft. “He’s really excited and excited he’s going to be on the field Thursday night [against Pittsburgh], where he absolutely belongs.”
With Brady on the field, the Patriots will now move forward with raising their Super Bowl XLIX banner. It was a ceremony they wouldn’t have held if Brady wasn’t allowed in the stadium, Kraft said defiantly on Thursday. The Patriots had a backup plan, with Kraft hinting that they had a Brady-themed banner ready to go, but he’s happy the original plans will go forward.
“When we first talked the first week, the one thing I emphasized is that Tom is the posterchild of what is right with the NFL. He’s the greatest quarterback of all time, an amazing role model in the locker room and classrooms,” said Kraft. “He’s an exceptional guy, and why he was put through this, and Judge Berman questioned that also and I realize today was about the process that got him there, but Tom Brady more than anybody deserved this vindication.
“If you’re an objective fan of the NFL, you have to like this too. You have to celebrate a guy like that, and when he’s unfairly targeted, it should get to anyone who loves the game,” added Kraft.
Kraft said the much-criticized 16-0 banner has been taken down to make way for new suites in the stadium, and likely won’t return. He joked that they may send it to Don Shula.
As for the Patriots’ actions moving forward in regards to possibly trying to get the two draft picks (first and fourth round picks in 2016) and $1 million the NFL docked them for DeflateGate, Kraft said it isn’t likely.
“Robert [Kraft] is a man of his word. He came out in May that he said very publically that he felt was the right thing to do relative to Tom; getting Tom cleared was more important than anything else. Robert, and we all believed, that would have helped Tom,” he explained.
“When it didn’t, you heard strongly how we felt about it and made a public apology to the fans. Robert is a man of his word, and I would never say never to anything, but today it’s not our intention. We’re excited to get on with this season, so that’s where we’re focused.”