Spoke to Patriots owner Robert Kraft a few minutes ago and wanted to pass along his thoughts on the end of the referee lockout, and also his Pro Football Hall of Fame nomination as a contributor.
“Here I’m speaking to our all our fans, who are frustrated, just like I was and I’d say the majority of owners. We had really hoped that the refs would have been in before the first game and I know Roger Goodell worked very hard to do it and I thought we were close. But any time you try to do a long-term deal, it’s difficult and if you want to get the right agreement, it means you have to take on the hard issues. What was reported more than anything (was) that this was about money. And anyone who is a half-decent businessman knows the money is always an issue, but it was not the main issue.
The hardest thing for us to have this new agreement, (was to) have these full-time officials and create a bench of officials, a deep pool, and still maintain the commissioner’s ability to discipline and allow those refs who did a great job, like in a private business, get rewarded and do the end of the year (games), the playoffs. And so we were able to maintain those rights. I understand the fans being disappointed, but this didn’t happen right away. Believe me, we wanted it.
This isn’t a perfect business. It’s a bit imperfect in a sense. I had talked with Drew Bledsoe and he reminded me that he had to come out of the locker room twice when he thought games were ended. Even the regular refs, it’s been a struggle at times. They are the highest qualified, they do a great job, and I think these replacement refs had a great deal of scrutiny on them. We just wish it had never come to that.
The good news is we have a long-term deal, the integrity of the game is protected and we have the highest qualified guys in it.”
Asked Kraft his reaction to the Baltimore loss, and whether he thought the officiating affected the Patriots’ ability to win in that game. He didn’t say no.
“Well, you know (laughing), even when the regular refs were on the field … the only people who complain about refs are the people who have lost games, you know? I’ve had that feeling when there have been regular refs and we’ve lost a game. I think the main thing is that we get an agreement that is long-term that is win-win, and I think we were able to do that here and I want to give great credit to commissioner Goodell for taking the heat and doing what he had to do to get this thing done. He really did a great job. And he took a lot of heat. He’s a good man. He’s doing a great job.”
On the Hall of Fame nomination:
“It’s a great honor. As a little kid you dream about something like that. It’s just an honor to be nominated. It’s out of my hands. Whatever happens, happens. But it’s quite an honor to be alive and have it happen while I’m still alive.”