CHANDLER, Ariz. (CBS) — Robert Kraft was not scheduled to speak Monday afternoon at the Patriots team hotel, but clearly, the Patriots owner had something to say.
Kraft stepped to the podium prior to Bill Belichick’s and Tom Brady’s press conferences and came out with a strong defense of his coach, his quarterback and his team after a week of accusations that the Patriots violated NFL rules by using underinflated footballs during the AFC Championship Game.
Kraft also spoke as harshly against the NFL as he ever has in his 20 years as Patriots owner.
“If the [Ted] Wells investigation is not able to definitively determine that our organization tampered with the air pressure on the footballs, I would expect and hope that the league would apologize to our entire team, and in particular, Coach Belichick and Tom Brady, for what they have had to endure this past week,” Kraft said.
The strong words from Kraft follow Belichick’s impromptu press conference on Saturday afternoon, when the coach said he was “embarrassed” for the amount of time he dedicated on the subject.
“I am confident that this investigation will uncover whatever the facts were that took place last Sunday, and the science of how game balls react to changes in the environment,” Kraft said. “This would be in direct contrast to the public discourse which has been driven by media leaks as opposed to actual data and facts. Because of this, many jumped to conclusions and made strong accusations against our coach, quarterback and staff, questioning the integrity of all involved.”
Kraft said that he, like Belichick, spent much of last week learning about game-day football preparations. He added that his 15 years working with Belichick and Brady has built up a certain level of trust.
“I want to make it clear that I believe unconditionally that the New England Patriots have done nothing inappropriate in this process that’s in violation of NFL rules,” Kraft said. “They are my guys. They are part of my family. And Bill, Tom and I have had many difficult discussions over the years, and I have never known them to lie to me. That is why I am confident in saying what I just said. And it bothers me greatly that their reputations and integrity, and by association that of our team, has been called into question this past week. As I said on Friday in my prepared statement, we welcome the league’s investigation and the involvement of attorney Wells.”
Following Kraft’s comments, Belichick stepped to the podium. Though the coach deflected any questions about footballs, PSI and the investigation, he did respond when asked what it means to receive that type of support from the owner.
“I have a great relationship with Mr. Kraft,” Belichick said. “I really appreciate the opportunity every day to coach the New England Patriots. Mr. Kraft gave up quite a bit in order to work out the trade, basically is what it was, for me to be a part of this organization after I resigned from the Jets. So, I’ll be forever indebted to him for that, and the support that he and his family and his staff have given me as the coach of the football team has been tremendous. We have a great personal relationship, and we have a great professional relationship.”
Brady said he did not hear the comments, but he had been told of them.
“I feel very much the same way about him,” Brady said. “We have a very special relationship. I’ve been fortunate enough to play here for 15 years, and it’s a privilege to play for this team. … I’d love to go out and play my tail off and play as best as I possibly can and try to win the Super Bowl for him.”