Robert Kraft was the first off the plane and the first to address the media at the team hotel Monday night in Arizona.
And before head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady took to the podium, it was the New England Patriots owner who backed the organization and its two cornerstones in wake of the league’s investigation into the underinflated footballs used in the AFC Championship Game.
“Given the events of the last week, I want to take a minute to address the air pressure matter before we kick off this week’s media availabilities,” Kraft said. “I have spoken with coach Belichick, I have spoken with Tom Brady, I have taken the time to understand to the best of my abilities what goes on in the preparation of gameday footballs. And I want to make it clear that I believe unconditionally that the New England Patriots have done nothing inappropriate in this process or in violation of NFL rules.”
Amid the allegations, Belichick held an impromptu press conference Saturday afternoon to further explain the Patriots’ internal investigation and simulation studies conducted on the football preparation and consequent fluctuation in pounds per square inch. Belichick and Brady also held press conferences dedicated to the matter earlier in the week as the team began preparations for the Seattle Seahawks.
Kraft advocated for them in his own address Monday night.
“Tom, Bill and I have been together for 15 years. 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.”
The premise of Kraft’s words grew stronger over his four minutes at the podium.
He spoke adamantly about his trust in Belichick and Brady. And he spoke adamantly in defense of the organization he’s built and protected since 1994, only hours after a report from Jay Glazer of FOX Sports said the NFL has zeroed in on a Patriots locker-room attendant seen in surveillance video.
“As I said on Friday in my prepared statement, we welcome the league’s investigation and the involvement attorney [Ted] Wells. 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.”
But before Kraft stepped back and the coach and quarterback stepped up, he spoke adamantly in question of the league he’s been an integral part of for over 20 years.
“If the Wells investigation is not able to definitively determine that our organization tampered with the air pressure in 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 stated. “I am disappointed in the way this entire matter has been handled and reported upon. We expect hard facts as opposed to circumstantial leaked evidence to draw the conclusion of this investigation. In closing, I would like to say to all the fans of the National Football League, and especially the amazing fans of the New England Patriots, that I and our entire organization believe strongly in the integrity of the game and the rules of fair play, properly, equitably and fairly enforced. Thank you.”