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Kraft holds court

Posted by Mike Whitmer, Globe Staff  January 20, 2012 12:22 PM

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FOXBOROUGH -- We'll hopefully update this later today, but Patriots owner Robert Kraft met with the media for 30 minutes inside Gillette Stadium today, discussing a wide range of topics, including the Patriots' game next season in London, meeting Tom Brady for the first time, and how important this year's team and their success has been to him after his wife, Myra, died in July.

"This has been my savior, they've been my extended family," Kraft said, when asked about a season that has seen his team advance to the AFC Championship game for the eighth time in franchise history (seventh with Kraft as owner) on Sunday, but without his sweetheart, as he refers to Myra Kraft, by his side. The team has dedicated the season to her.

Kraft explained how proud he is of the Patriots' success, especially in the playoffs, since he assumed ownership of the team in 1994. He recalled being a longtime Patriots season ticket holder, witnessing just one home playoff game in 34 years, a 1978 loss to Houston. Sunday's game will be the 15th home playoff game since Kraft became owner.

He was asked assorted questions about Brady and coach Bill Belichick, and said that when he decided to hire Belichick in January 2000, he had network television heads call him and say it would be a bad idea. Three Super Bowl titles under a coach that Kraft said would go down as the greatest in NFL history have followed the decision to hire Belichick.

Kraft also said he's excited about having the Patriots play in London for a second time, next season against the St. Louis Rams. Although Kraft said the league approached the Patriots about a long-term commitment of games there (St. Louis will play in each of the next three seasons), he said they weren't willing to give up a home game. But he praised the support that the team has received from fans in the UK -- "We are the New ENGLAND Patriots," he quipped -- and said he would expect a good number of fans from the United States make the trip across the pond.

When asked about Brady, Kraft said he still remembers the first time he met the quarterback, who was then a rookie sixth-round draft pick out of Michigan.

Brady was set to introduce himself when Kraft beat him to the punch, and said, "Hi Tom, I know who you are." To which Brady replied, according to Kraft: "I'm the best decision this franchise has ever made."

Kraft announced that former quarterback Drew Bledsoe will be the fourth and final honorary captain as the franchise recognizes the 15th anniversary of the 1996 team that lost to the Packers in the Super Bowl. He also said that the organization wants impending free agent receiver Wes Welker to return and that he thinks Welker wants to return, and that Steven Tyler will sing the national anthem before Sunday's game.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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