Kraft tackling league issues


That (above) is the New Meadowlands Stadium. And if Patriots owner Robert Kraft has his way, that will be where Super Bowl XLVIII will be held.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Globe here at the owners meetings in the Las Colinas section of Irving, Texas, Kraft affirmed his support, once again, for the New York/New Jersey bid, and his reasoning has nothing to do with opening the cold-weather Pandora’s Box for future Super Bowls.

“Ever since 9/11, I’ve hoped that something like this could happen,” Kraft said. “It’s just reaffirming support for that great city and region, New Jersey and New York. … I see two major things: Payback to the people of that region in bringing what I think is the greatest sporting event in the world, to host it, and thank them for what’s gone on almost a decade later; And then also a thank you to the owners who stepped up and took one out there with real financial stakes.”

Kraft also reiterated his support for an 18-game regular season and a uniform overtime policy. And we’ll get to those things in a minute.

But since the Super Bowl issue is likely the only one we’ll come out of here with a definitive answer on, let’s address that one first. Would he want to host a Super Bowl? Sure. Yet, he also understands why it’s unlikely, and that his chance likely passed when the traditionalist in him kept a roof off Gillette.

“I want it,” he said. “I would love to reward our fans and do it in our region. I just think it’s too hard. You need cooperation on a lot of fronts to put an event like this on, and it’s much easier to do in a warm–weather climate. And that is, by and large, what I would prefer. This is a unique stadium in a unique city at a unique time.

“I can honestly say I don’t look at it as a precedent for us. I can understand your question, but I think every one of these situations is a one-off situation. Look, both Miami and Tampa (the other finalists) are very good places to have Super Bowl. I just think this time, this is the right thing to do.”

At the same time, it appears that plenty of people here feel it’s the wrong time to expand the new overtime format from a playoffs-only system to a full-time policy. And so the likelihood is that idea will remain tabled for now.

“I would support it, I believe we should have one rule,” Kraft said. “There shouldn’t be one for the playoffs and one for the regular season. But I think there’s a sentiment to try it out and see what happens, and then expand it. I’m not sure anything will happen on that at this meeting. It’ll be discussed. But in the end, I think there should be one rule, regular season and playoffs.”

And if you want to go further down the line, as far as growth goes, another topic to be mulled here will be the expansion of the regular season to 18 games.

That certainly won’t be voted on, but it’s likely to come up. Kraft said that the earliest it could be implemented was the 2012 season and, when the time comes, he’ll back the idea.

“I think that’ll help us secure a new labor arrangement,” Kraft said. “We have to look for ways to generate more revenue and have our cost structure reflect what we’d like to do. We have a 20-game schedule now, so it’s going to stay at 20 games. It’s just that we’ll have two preseason games. I think our season-ticket holders will like it better. I think in the end, it’ll make for a better season.”


And as for the notion that more injuries will follow …

“It’s the same season, it’s 20 games,” Kraft said. “It’s a function of how much players play in the preseason. We actually have statistics show that at the end of the year – second half of the season and in the playoffs – there are actually less injuries than there are in the beginning of the year.

“I can understand the concern, and if any of them would like to take a reduction in pay … It’s just a matter of you can’t have it all ways. If you want to see your salaries grow than you have to do things that allow the revenues to grow.”

Then, there was the elephant in the hotel lobby here — The labor situation. Union chief DeMaurice Smith warned fans again of the possibility of a lockout during a live chat on the PA’s Web site yesterday.

But Kraft remained more optimistic.

“Look, we’re gonna have a labor deal eventually,” Kraft said. “It’s a question of when. There’ll be a lot of noise. Since the last labor deal, we generated $3.6 billion in new revenue, and $2.6 billion went to the players, plus another $200 million. Ownership collectively had $200 million greater expenses on this last revenue drawn. We can’t continue that and continue to invest in the business.”


We have plenty more from Kraft coming, so keep it locked here for that, and more from the meetings as they get going in earnest tomorrow.

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