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Patriots Notebook

Newly widowed Kraft keeps legacy alive

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / August 11, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH - The hurt is still raw, and it is written all over Robert Kraft’s face. He can no longer call his sweetheart to check in while he’s working at Gillette Stadium, won’t have her sitting next to him at the stadium for games, won’t have her there for the traditional Shabbat dinners every Friday evening.

Yesterday, the Patriots owner spoke publicly for the first time since the death of his wife, Myra Kraft, who died July 20 after a long battle with cancer. He wore a lapel pin on his navy blazer, with the initials “MHK,’’ for Myra Hiatt Kraft, under a Patriots helmet. At their preseason opener against the Jaguars tonight, Patriots players and coaches will debut a uniform patch bearing Myra’s initials.

In addition to dedicating her life to Robert, their four sons, and eight grandchildren, Myra Kraft was a tireless philanthropist whose reach was felt not just in New England but around the world. On the day she died, “Myra Kraft’’ was a trending topic on Twitter for several hours (which brings a slightly bemused smile to Robert’s face; he isn’t often on Twitter). Hundreds of e-mails, cards, and letters came pouring into the team offices.

Kraft pledged to read every tweet, card, and letter, and he still has two boxes to go through.

In addition to those expressions of sympathy, Kraft reported yesterday that the Myra Kraft Giving Back Scholarship Fund at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston has received $3 million in donations since her death. Much of the money, Kraft said, is from $10 or $20 gifts from people the family doesn’t know.

“What that really means is, it plants the seed for her legacy of giving back to communities,’’ Kraft said. “We are going to be adding to that fund and do things that are going to help this region and help people who want to volunteer, people in need, for generations to come.

“My boys and myself have spent a lot of time planning . . . she never wanted accolades, she just . . . we’ve dedicated the season to her, and volunteerism. We’re going to take the bulk of the income from this endowment and give it to young people who volunteer back and serve their communities.’’

The family also plans to start an “emergency fund’’ to help people who contact them with one-time, urgent needs.

For 4 1/2 months before her death, the only time Robert left Myra’s side was to travel to bargaining sessions between the NFL and the Players Association aimed at getting a new collective bargaining agreement completed before training camps began.

“She knew how important this game was to America and so she gave me a pass,’’ he said. “In a way, it was helping to do something with our team of people that is important to America, and that was a good distraction, to be honest.’’

Robert is focused on continuing Myra’s life’s work of enriching others, and still feels fortunate despite his heartbreak.

“I’m blessed,’’ he said. “I have the best life partner, I have a great family. I have a business that I love.

“I’m passionate about this business. I want to win more than anything. We’re going to do what we have to do to try to win here and what comes with that, but it also allows us to go into the community and touch people.’’

There are limits After 15 training camp practices, the Patriots play their first preseason game tonight. Despite the lack of offseason camps and new league rules that prohibit two-a-days, don’t expect the starters to be on the field any longer than they normally would.

“I doubt you’ll see it this week,’’ said coach Bill Belichick. “We’ll do what we feel is best for the team to get everybody collectively as a team and individually prepared to play.’’

With right guard Dan Connolly not expected to play after missing the last two days of practice and left tackle Matt Light still on the physically unable to perform list, it will be interesting to see how long Tom Brady plays.

Jaguars rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert will start in place of David Garrard, who suffered a back injury in camp.

Guest quarterback The Patriots held an 80-minute walkthrough inside Gillette Stadium yesterday, with players wearing helmets and shells. It was so relaxed that Harry Kraft, one of Robert Kraft’s grandsons, took over the offense for several snaps, getting some tips from Brady before he walked to the line. Kraft completed a pass to Wes Welker but had other attempts batted down by Kyle Arrington and rookie Malcolm Williams . . . Rob Gronkowski returned to the field after missing Tuesday’s practice; he left the field midway through Monday’s full-pads session. Brandon Spikes was on the field briefly and did some light jogging with the rest of the team. Absent were: Connolly, Albert Haynesworth, Mike Wright, Brandon Tate, Ras-I Dowling, Shane Vereen, James Sanders, Eric Kettani, Josh Barrett, Ryan Wendell, Chris Morris, as well as PUP list players Light, Ron Brace, Marcus Cannon, Brandon Deaderick, Shaun Ellis, and Kevin Faulk. Belichick said it is safe to assume that players not practicing yesterday will not play tonight . . . The team announced the release of safety Ross Ventrone . . . Offensive lineman Tony Moll, who spent the past two seasons with the Ravens, signed a free agent deal with the Jaguars yesterday. The 6-foot-5-inch, 315-pounder is expected to play tonight.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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