Sunday 18 February 2018

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft regrets not suing over Deflate-gate and wants Tom Brady suspension reduced

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he regrets not taking legal action against the National Football League, whose players' union is suing to have a four-game suspension of quarterback Tom Brady set aside.

Kraft said it was "unfathomable" that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell refused to reduce Brady's penalty for his involvement in the Patriots' deflated-ball controversy.

Kraft spoke at a news conference at the start of the team's training camp today, hours after Brady, who stands to lose about $1.75 million in salary during his ban, released a statement saying neither he nor anyone in the Patriots organization has done anything wrong.

"I was wrong to put my faith in the league," Kraft said.

The NFL Players Association said last night it is suing the league because Brady wasn't given proper notice of the disciplinary standards, policies and potential penalties that the league applied in its appeal of his discipline.

Goodell's decision, which the union called "outrageous," was the result of a "fundamentally unfair process, and was issued by an evidently partial arbitrator who put himself in the position of ruling on the legality of his own improper delegation of authority" in violation of the parties' collective bargaining agreement, the union said in its suit.

Kraft said he regrets not fighting penalties the NFL levied against the team in May that included a $1 million fine, and that the league's handling of the matter has been "frustrating and disconcerting."

"I was optimistic the league would have what they wanted," Kraft said at the televised news conference. "I was willing to accept the harshest penalty in the history of the NFL because I believed it would help exonerate Tom."

The NFL's Management Council sued the union first, asking a court in Manhattan to confirm Goodell was within his rights to uphold the discipline. The union filed its lawsuit in Minnesota in hopes that U.S. District Judge David Doty will hear the case. Doty in February overturned Adrian Peterson's indefinite suspension from the league after the Minnesota Vikings running back pleaded no contest in an abuse case involving his four- year-old son.

In rejecting Brady's appeal, Goodell noted Brady had his personal mobile phone destroyed just before meeting with investigators, an act the commissioner said was an effort to conceal potentially relevant evidence and to undermine the probe. Brady, 37, contended that he replaced his broken phone after his attorneys made it clear to the NFL that his device wouldn't be subject to investigation under any circumstances.

"To suggest that I destroyed a phone to avoid giving the NFL information it requested is completely wrong," Brady said in his statement.

Kraft said the NFL "intentionally implied nefarious behavior" and minimized Brady's participation in the investigation, which concluded the two-time NFL Most Valuable Player was probably at least generally aware that two Patriots staffers deflated game balls below the league's minimum air pressure before last season's conference championship game.Â

"Given the facts, evidence and laws of science that underscore the entire situation," Kraft said, "it's completely incomprehensible that the league takes steps to disparage one of its all-time great players and a man for whom I have the utmost respect. It's sad."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick declined to address the issue, saying the team is focused on getting ready for the start of the 2015 season.

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