PHOENIX – New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was in attendance and participated in meetings at a Phoenix resort Sunday as the NFL opened its annual league meeting.
Kraft was seen walking with his son, Patriots executive Jonathan Kraft, and speaking to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell between sets of closed-door meetings Sunday. He was not available to comment.
The 77-year-old owner of the Patriots faces prostitution-related charges in Florida and has a court date scheduled for Thursday. His attorneys have said he is not required to attend. Kraft has pleaded not guilty and reportedly will reject an offer by prosecutors to avoid a criminal conviction in exchange for, among other provisions, community service and an admission that he likely would have been found guilty at trial.
Kraft’s attorneys have contended publicly that evidence gathered by police against Kraft was obtained improperly.
He issued a written statement Saturday in which he said he is “truly sorry” and regrets having caused pain and disappointment for those around him.
One person who has interacted with Kraft recently in football-related settings said Kraft has not addressed the Florida case and has taken a business-as-usual approach to NFL matters.
“You would never know that anything had happened,” that person said.
Kraft faces possible discipline by the NFL under its personal-conduct policy. Owners are subject to the policy, and Goodell is empowered to impose discipline even in cases in which there is no criminal conviction. It appears that the NFL will allow the legal process to play out first.
The league meeting is scheduled to run through Wednesday. The top priority for Kraft and other owners is to decide whether to expand instant replay as an officiating tool. The competition committee has proposed to make pass interference, roughing the passer and illegal hits reviewable by replay, but only in cases in which the on-field officials already have called a penalty.
The deliberations come after the missed pass interference call in the NFC championship game in January that kept the New Orleans Saints from reaching the Super Bowl, sending the Los Angeles Rams instead. Even with that high-profile officiating gaffe, some owners remain wary of expanding the use of replay and there’s no guarantee that they will reach a consensus on replay modifications at this meeting.
“We’ll just have to see what people say in the room,” a high-ranking executive with one NFL team said Sunday. “I think (Goodell) would like to see something done. But I don’t know that he will absolutely push something through.”
The owners also will consider a series of replay-related proposals made by individual NFL teams. One of those, by the Washington Redskins, would make every call and noncall in a game subject to possible replay review, under the coaches’ challenge system. That proposal, unlike the one by the competition committee, might have enabled the officiating mistake made in the NFC title game to have been corrected.
Any proposal would have to be approved by at least 24 of the 32 teams.