NEW YORK – Patriots owner Robert Kraft, like most of his fellow team owners, was on hand at the Rose Theater, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, on Friday for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s annual Super Bowl week address/press conference.
After, he spent several minutes talking to Boston-area and some national reporters, touching on a variety of topics.
On how the week has gone thus far in New York/New Jersey
It really has been great. I personally wanted to see this, in addition to the owners here. Especially after 9/11, I know we were privileged to win the Super Bowl that year just a few months after, and it really struck at the core of America, and to have this happening here, it’s a good signal to the world how we feel about this region, and it’s such a vibrant part of America – I love being here and I’m happy the game’s here.
Would you want a Super Bowl in Foxborough?
Well, let’s see how this goes. I’m a great supporter of playing this game in all elements. I think the most memorable games we’ve played up in Foxborough somehow have had either cold weather or snow associated with them. Probably the greatest game played in the old Foxboro Stadium was the so-called ‘Tuck Rule’ game. The ratings were great, and all the fans remember being there, so I’m a big supporter of the game here and I compliment New York/New Jersey and what they’ve done.
On Goodell’s idea to add a seventh playoff team in each conference, thus giving only one team a bye week
Well, then you have to come in first and not second if you want to get the bye. But it’s really unbelievable – this year is the first time in a long time that the two teams seeded number one are playing in the Super Bowl, and that’s something…probably it’s a good thing to do and it will make the end of the season still on a numbers basis, more competitive games and every game will mean more, but the bye didn’t help us this season.
On whether Tom Brady was the league’s MVP and how many great years Kraft envisions him having left
I hope it doesn’t stop for a long time, but to tell you the truth, with all due respect for Tommy, I think this year our team really performed unbelievably. I think it might be Bill [Belichick’s]…I’ve had the relationship with him for 14 seasons and I think what’s happened here and as the whole season evolved, it’s just amazing the coaching job and the way the whole team came together, and I think we made it to the championship game and really had a chance to win the game, even though Peyton and the whole Broncos team, they played a flawless game, no turnovers. I don’t even think they had a penalty called. So our team really did function as a team this year, and I’m very proud of them and I’m proud that the team is so young and I’m anxiously looking forward to next year.
On whether there’s an urgency to get Brady better offensive weapons because the quarterback is getting older
You know, once again, it’s about team building. I don’t know that people fully understood, with the advent of the salary cap, the importance of the bottom third of the roster. If you look at what happened to us this year, I think we had three starting defensive linemen who were undrafted free rookie agents [Joe Vellano was the only undrafted rookie on the D-line this season]. I think how you manage the bottom third of the roster is critical to your development, so how you invest your dollars, and it’s easy to Monday morning quarterback, but I think with what happened this year and the fact that we got to the championship game, it’s a pretty remarkable feat. You’re always looking to improve the team on both sides of the ball.
On the NFL returning to Los Angeles…Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke has bought a 60-acre parcel of land in L.A. county, touching off speculation he’s considering moving the team again
I personally feel that we should have a team in LA. Who the owner should be or whether a team moves there or whatever, I think it’s unfortunate that a generation of fans have grown up [without an LA-based team]. It’s good for the New England Patriots because we have a lot of fans in the LA market, but I don’t think it’s good for the NFL. I think we want to have young fans growing up, rooting and having a commitment to a team.
If he’s picking a side on Sunday with former player Wes Welker and former coach Pete Carroll on opposite sidelines
I don’t know if I’m allowed to pick sides, to be honest. It’s really hard to even go or watch this game for us, but I do have people I feel very warmly to on both sides, so it’s really irrelevant how I feel after that.
The Patriots have $7.5 million in dead money against the salary cap in 2014 owed to Aaron Hernandez – are you trying to fight/reduce that?
We’re doing whatever we can to free up any money we can. My friend here [a reporter in the group] has said we need some players on the offensive side, other people say we need on the defensive side. We have a fella like Matt Slater, who is such an outstanding special teams player, he’s a free agent coming up (in 2014), so we have to balance a lot of things.
Have you instituted any changes in the organization since Hernandez’s arrest?
Well we’ve made certain adjustments internally, in terms of our own checking. We have a wonderful individual who is a full-time pastor (Jack Easterby) who has I think been very strong in terms of his spiritual guidance, and we have our own internal disciplines. We probably have 100 young men come through the system, it’s hard to know everything, but I can assure you we’re being as vigilant as we can be.
On re-signing free agent WR Julian Edelman
I definitely want him back. He’s an outstanding young man. We hope he wants to be back, and once again, it’s about two sides coming together. He really came into his own this year, and what he did in returning punts, what he did on the field was tremendous. I really hope he’ll return with us.
On getting to know CB Aqib Talib since his arrival with the team, and re-signing him
He’s been a great young man in the locker room and fun to be with and he’s really been a great team player and the camaraderie has been terrific. He’s a fun guy. He’s a real good guy. …Very much (want to re-sign him). I really would. Look what happened in the game in Denver when he went out – we see the impact he can have, and no matter how many weapons you have on offense, if you can’t stop the team on the other side, it doesn’t matter, and he really made a great contribution.
His thoughts on centralizing officiating, where officials in the league offices make replay decisions, as is done in the NHL
I personally like the idea of centralized; I’m not sure how the league feels. I think games should be standardized and we should have the same people making the calls and we don’t ever want to lose a game based on interpretation of a rule, correct or not. If we earn it, then we should get it. I just wouldn’t like to see it happen by poor interpretation of the rules. So the more it can be structured and centralized, I would be in support of that. I hope it’s possible to do it.
As part of that, should game officials be full-time league employees?
I would vote for that, yes – spending all their time doing it. I think officials can make a big difference in how they call the game. There’s so much hard work, preparation that goes in – it’s a year-round job and we only play 16 games before the playoffs, if we’re privileged to make it. Those calls…half of all our games are [decided by] seven points or less and half of those games, or 25 percent of all games, are by three points or less, so it’s two or three plays. One call can make the difference in a game. We had two games this year that at the end of the game some things happen, and think about it: if one of those games went the other way, we would have been playing at home in the championship game. So you think like that, you want to be sure that whatever calls were made at the end of those two games were the correct calls. I might have my opinion on what was correct, I’m not sure I’m completely objective, but I’d like to make sure it was done properly because the stakes are so big. So that’s the reason I’d like to see it centralized.
On recently-retired offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia
Well we hope to do something nice for Dante; he’s a very humble guy. Think of a man today – when I was sitting in the seats at Foxborough stadium, watching the Patriots, he was coaching, and then when I owned the team he’s the coach and he stays right through the 20 years. And he is off the charts. You see what’s happened with our offensive line, I don’t know how many years he’s been doing it, but how great they are. He’s just a quiet, humble, wonderful man and we’re honored to have Dante Scarnecchia as part of the Patriots. He is the ultimate Patriot.