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Kraft hints at Light's retirement

Longtime tackle mum on subject

Robert Kraft spoke on a variety of subjects Thursday. Robert Kraft spoke on a variety of subjects Thursday.
By Greg A. Bedard
Globe Staff / March 23, 2012
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FOXBOROUGH - It wasn’t what Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Thursday about the future of left tackle Matt Light, it was more how Kraft said it.

With a little emotion in his voice, Kraft did nothing to dissuade the feeling around the team that Light, after an 11-year career, will retire this offseason.

“Well, [if] Matt Light decides to retire . . . he’s somebody who’s been with us the whole time,’’ Kraft said. “He’s been such an outstanding person, both on and off the field.’’

Kraft was asked if Light had informed the team of his intentions.

“I don’t want to speak for him, has there been no public announcements?’’ Kraft said.

When told there hadn’t been, Kraft said, “I think you ought to speak to Matt.’’

Light, who will turn 34 on June 23, has yet to comment. Several messages to his agent, Ben Dogra, have not been returned.

Light is due to count $8 million against the salary this season. If he retires, the Patriots will recoup about $5 million.

Nate Solder, the team’s first-round pick last season, would probably take over for Light if he retires. Solder was on hand at yesterday’s Patriots’ Charitable Foundation event, along with linebacker Jerod Mayo.

The Patriots hosted Camp Sunshine in Casco, Maine, a camp for children battling cancer. The camp received a $10,000 grant in honor of 17-year-old volunteer Joey Cerato, who was selected as a runner-up in the 2011 Community MVP Awards program.

The Patriots are accepting applications through April 15 for $100,000 in grants for the renamed 2012 Myra Kraft Community MVP Awards.

The Patriots owner touched on a variety of subjects after the event, including the decision of quarterback Tom Brady to restructure his contract to save the team $7.2 million in cap room this year.

“I think we’re blessed to have the No. 1 quarterback in the NFL, but let’s also remember that when he restructures his deal, he’s getting a bundle of cash [$10.8 million] up front,’’ Kraft said. “But it is helping us create cap room and it’s something that I think is a win-win all around.’’

Kraft didn’t hint one way or the other whether fans could expect a big move as a result of the new-found cash.

“Remember, we’re in the business of quality depth management,’’ Kraft said. “It’s a physical game and you have injuries and you need depth on your team. I think we’re starting to develop depth on the team.

“We’re doing a lot of homework in the draft, and I think we’re going to have a very interesting offseason continue to develop. We have flexibility. That’s the key in this game because no one knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, who will be on the market, what opportunities will be there.’’

Kraft lamented that running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be departing after signing with the Bengals.

“One personal loss for me is BenJarvus. I really had a deep affection for him,’’ Kraft said. “He did a great job for us for the four years that he was with us, especially this past year, he was really supportive of me personally and we became good friends. I’m always going to have a special attachment to him.’’

Kraft didn’t have an update on contracts talks with receiver Wes Welker - “He’s on the team [with the franchise tag], that’s the progress,’’ Kraft said - and thinks “it’s great for football that we have the rivalry back with Tommy and Peyton [Manning],’’ after his decision to join the Broncos.

Kraft did back up the unprecedented penalties handed down by commissioner Roger Goodell against the Saints in the bounty scandal.

“His job is to protect the shield, and look at the long-term best interests of the game. I think that’s what he did there,’’ Kraft said. “What I like about it is I know that he’s looking out for what’s best for the game long term and the health and welfare of our players.

“I know my grandsons play Pop Warner, another grandson plays high school football. It’s good that they know that their role models have certain standards, and all of us in society really have to conduct ourselves a certain way. I think [Goodell], having the knowledge he had, sent a strong message and I have confidence in his judgment and whatever he decides is in the best interest of the game. I have a lot of confidence that Roger Goodell is doing that all the time.’’

Greg A. Bedard can be reached at gbedard@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @gregabedard.

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