During the just-completed NFL-NFLPA press conference announcing the ratification – finally – of the settlement agreement that ends the 136-day lockout, Patriots owner Robert Kraft was among the several men on both sides to stand in front of the microphones.
But Kraft did what no one else did: he began his comments by thanking the fans.
Here’s the full text of what Kraft said in Washington:
“First of all I’d like, on behalf of both sides, to apologize to the fans that for the last five, six months we’ve been talking about the business of football and not what goes on on the field and building the teams in each market, but the end result is we’ve been able to have an agreement that I think is going to allow this sport to flourish over the next decade and we’ve done that in a way that’s unique among the major sports that every team in our league, all 32, will be competitive, we’ve improved player safety, and we’ve remembered the players who have played in the past.
“You know, I want to give a special compliment to Commissioner Goodell and De Smith because the commissioner has to deal with 32 tough and demanding owners and he’s been able to keep that balance but DeMaurice Smith has come in and he’s managing 1,900 players, a bunch of different professionals – it’s a new CBA with tricky language and he was able to keep all of those things going and come up with an agreement that he and Roger did together with their two teams.
“And lastly, what kept me at the table the last 4½ months was seeing the players who represented the … league’s players. You know, they just didn’t look at the short-term interests of their own playing careers, but the looked long term, especially Jeff Saturday and Domonique Foxworth, I was so impressed with them, that they acted as principals at the table, looking out for what’s good for the game, so I believe you’re going to see a very great NFL over the next decade. And I hope we gave a little lesson to the people in Washington because the debt crisis is a lot easier to fix than this deal was.”
Though his family is still sitting Shiva – the Jewish mourning period – Kraft was present at the press conference after being personally invited by both Goodell and Smith, according to our Greg Bedard.
Shortly after Kraft, Colts center Jeff Saturday gave some comments, and after thanking his wife for letting him attend all of the meetings of the last few weeks, he gave us an extremely touching moment.
“A special thanks to Myra Kraft [as soon as Robert heard Myra’s name he dropped his head], who even in her weakest moment allowed Mr. Kraft to come and fight this out and without him, this deal does not get done. And I don’t want to be [dramatic] in any way but he is a man who helped us save football and we’ve so gracious for that, we’re gracious for his family and for the opportunity he presented to get this deal done. So thank you very much – we really appreciate it,” Saturday said, finishing by embracing Kraft.
A few minutes later, Smith paid tribute to the Krafts as well.
“To echo what Jeff said about Mr. Kraft: we couldn’t have done it without you. We took a day off on Friday to remember a great woman and a great family and I’m thankful for what she meant to the city of Boston, I’m especially thankful for what you mean to the game of football,” he said.