Last week, the New England Patriots struck a defiant tone in the wake of the “Deflategate” penalties, publishing a (near) 20,000-word retort to the Wells Report that raised eyebrows and more than a few questions.
However, on Tuesday, team owner Robert Kraft reversed course, saying the reigning Super Bowl champions will accept the NFL’s punishment, which included a four-game suspension for Tom Brady, the loss of draft picks and a $1 million fine.
“Although I might disagree [with] what is decided, I do have respect for [commissioner Roger Goodell] and believe that he’s doing what he perceives to be in the best interests of [all 32 teams],” Kraft told reporters at the NFL owners’ meetings in San Francsico. “So in that spirit, I don’t want to continue the rhetoric that’s gone on for the last four months.
“I’m going to accept, reluctantly, what he has given to us and not continue this dialogue and rhetoric,” he continued. “We won’t appeal.”
Two weeks ago, NFL-appointed attorney Ted Wells released the findings of his investigation into “Deflategate,” the controversy that involved the Patriots purposely under-inflating game balls during their AFC Championship rout of the Indianapolis Colts. The Wells Report said that it was “more than probable” that team personnel knowingly deflated the balls, and concluded that quarterback Tom Brady “was at least generally aware” of the matter.
In January, Brady denied having any knowledge about the under-inflated balls, and his agent subsequently called the report “a sting operation” perpetrated by the NFL and the Colts. The All-Pro quarterback received a four-game suspension last week, and the Patriots were stripped of a first-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and a fourth-round selection in 2017. The team was also fined $1 million.
That led to the Patriots publishing a rebuttal at WellsReportContext.com, which presented contradictory information to the report – including scientific findings and a series of bizarre revelations about team staff – and concluded they had been “prejudged” by the league. Brady officially appealed his suspension on Thursday, and the stage appeared set for a showdown between the NFL and its marquee franchise (both sides had reportedly begun meeting to resolve their differences).
Now, that it seems that battle will not happen, and though Brady’s appeal will continue, the Patriots appear to be taking a reconciliatory tone.
“I vowed at that time that I would do everything I could to make the New England Patriots an elite team, and hopefully respected throughout the country, ” Kraft told reporters, recalling when he took over ownership in 1994. “And at the same time, do what I could to help the NFL become the most popular sport in America.”