PHOENIX -- Patriots owner Robert Kraft just met with a large group of reporters here at the NFL annual meeting.
Here is the Q&A:
The commissioner addressed the owners and other league executives this morning. What was his message?
“He gave a great speech. One of the things he spoke about was something we just dealt with in the [meeting] room by approving the qualifiers of how we’re going to do revenue sharing for the rest of our agreement. So I think there is a feeling from a number of us that we appreciate what a great league we have, and how special it is. We’re partners inside. The real enemies are outside the room. I think we came up with a program now -- which was contingent when we did our labor deal -- that allows us to fulfill the last [piece] of the labor deal: a revenue sharing plan. If we hadn’t agreed, and it only had two negative votes, then the commissioner would have had the unilateral power to decide. So this takes us through the past year and the next three years. He also mentioned that Harold Henderson is retiring. Harold has led the labor negotiations for the last 15 years and has done a very fine job. I think there are new challenges, and the commissioner and Jeff Pash, as well as Greg Levy from the Washington office, are going to take this over and start working on a new agreement. Of course, the revenue sharing and the new [labor] agreement are linked together.”
You said all along the Patriots would spend, but some have criticized you. Was this always the plan in free agency?
“We’ve actually always spent. If you look at the history, this is the beginning of our 14th season. We always spent up to the cap, or over the cap. I think it’s just a different style. There are inefficiencies in the marketplace. Every individual team’s needs are different -- what’s right for us might not be right for someone else -- and we knew that there were 25 teams that had a lot of cap room. So people were going to come fast off the market. We had to decide what was right for our franchise, and then be ready to move in the marketplace. We didn’t like being one minute away from going to the Super Bowl, and anything we could do to make our team better and improve, that’s what our focus was.”
How crucial was Adalius Thomas to that plan, having him be the centerpiece?
“Talk about inefficiency in the marketplace. There is a player who normally would be franchised, but because of the unique situation that Baltimore was in, he came free to the market. They had allocated so many dollars to defense, and what have you, and that was our opportunity to move. I think he liked our system, and his agent worked well with Scott [Pioli]. I think he really appreciated having Bill Belichick as a coach, and what we’re about as an organization and a team. He came off the market fast, but you knew that anyone like that was going to go fast. We adapted to the marketplace rather than wait for things. I think people think we’ve done things differently this year, but we haven’t. Whatever is the right strategy to improve our team, we’re going to employ. Sometimes it’s better to wait, and sometimes it’s better to initiate and act quickly.”
What is your opinion of the revenue sharing plan that was approved today?
“I don’t think anyone is 100 percent happy with it, but when we did our labor agreement it was contingent on having this plan. I think it was a wonderful compromise with the committee. I’m glad it didn’t have to go to the commissioner and we got 30 out of 32 votes. I think it’s a very fair plan.”
Back to the Patriots, at these meetings, what’s most important to the franchise that is being decided?
“I think the most important thing is passing this qualifier [for revenue sharing]. We have a great partnership in this league, as a business. We have to get the room back together as a whole. I think in this last labor negotiation there was a lot of division from within, and a lot of fracturing, and I think we have to work very hard to bring it together. I think taking this qualifier issue off the table now allows us to try to get back to a balanced partnership with the union.”
There has been plenty of talk on the personal conduct policy, and the commissioner will address that. What is your take on that?
“I think since we’ve bought the team we’ve shown what kind of people … we actually cut a player [Christian Peter] a number of years ago who was drafted who didn’t fit the profile of what we want. I don’t think the general public wants to see overindulged athletes getting a lot of money who don’t respect the responsibility and privilege they have. I don’t think major sponsors want to brand with us if we’re not diligent in that area. I think we’re going to come out of this week with a much stronger player-conduct policy, and I think a majority of the owners are very supportive of that.”
Who were the two “no” votes on the revenue sharing?
“Cincinnati and Jacksonville.”