|Kraft feels vindicated by Boston Herald apology|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 14 May 2008 11:54|
The Patriots owner felt vindicated by the Boston Herald's apology after a season - and offseason - of reports the NFL's most successful franchise of the decade had spied on opponents.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell found no more wrongdoing by New England, which had been punished for taping New York Jets coaches in the 2007 season opener. Former Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh produced no tape of a St. Louis Rams walkthrough before the 2002 Super Bowl while meeting with Goodell on Tuesday.
And the newspaper that first reported on Feb. 2 the existence of such a tape said it had made a mistake and apologized in headlines on the front and back pages and in a brief story.
``I think I speak for all Patriot fans,'' Kraft said in an interview with The Associated Press. ``We're relieved that this is over and you see that this is nonsense and we were unfairly accused and we're moving on.
``From our point of view, it's the end.''
Later Wednesday, Sen. Arlen Specter issued a long statement detailing numerous instances of New England videotaping opponents, questioning the NFL probe and saying ``an objective, thorough, transparent investigation is necessary.''
Unless the league begins an independent investigation similar to the one that produced the Mitchell Report on performance enhancing drugs in baseball, ``it will be up to Congress to get the facts and take corrective action,'' Specter's statement said.
Patriots spokesman Stacey James said the team had no comment on the remarks from the Republican from Pennsylvania.
For Kraft, his happy day began before 7 a.m. when he saw the front-page headline that could have been a pleasant accompaniment to a nice breakfast.
``I try not to eat a nice breakfast,'' said Kraft, who works out at the Gillette Stadium weight room. ``I have coffee and a bran muffin.''
The apology, he said in a telephone interview, ``was sort of a vindication of what's gone on since September.''
The Herald story about the alleged taping of the walkthrough was published the day before the Patriots lost the Super Bowl to the New York Giants 17-14, ending New England's bid for a 19-0 season. The Patriots had won the 2002 Super Bowl against the Rams 20-17, their first of three championships.
Kraft said he didn't think the report and NFL investigation would leave a lasting stain on his team's reputation. He did express concern how the public far from New England might perceive the Patriots, especially after the most-watched Super Bowl in history.
``All the people watching hear this allegation,'' he said. ``So people in South Dakota or Idaho who we don't reach a lot, (we) had our brand damaged.''
But might the team receive some sympathy now that the Herald said it was wrong and the NFL investigation found no walkthrough tape?
``Our fans, I think, they will be in our corner,'' Kraft said., ``For people who we either beat their teams or have some ax to grind, I don't know. They may not like us but they respect what we're about as an organization and how we handle adversity.''
The adversity began after the Patriots beat the New York Jets 38-14 last Sept. 9. The NFL said the next day it was investigating claims a Patriots employee videotaped signals by Jets coaches on New York's sideline during the game.
The league later fined coach Bill Belichick $500,000 and the team $250,000 and took away a first-round draft pick this year.
``Our people violated a rule. We were penalized severely,'' Kraft said. ``Everyone knows we were under that scrutiny and we did something that's never been done in the NFL, winning 18 games in a row.
``And then the day before the biggest game in the history of the franchise, a story comes out that's completely erroneous and false, and for 3 1/2 months that story has hung out there like a cloud and we denied it right up front.''
He was ``very disappointed'' the newspaper published it, but ``I must compliment the Boston Herald for doing what is unprecedented in terms of recognizing their error in a major way.
``I'm really delighted with that, but I wish it never happened.''
He also said he doesn't know why Walsh didn't refute the story soon after it was published.
``He could have said that a long time ago and defused it within 24 hours of the story coming out,'' Kraft said. ``If you read the blogs or read people or talk to people, everyone assumed he was the source or was one step removed from the source. ... You'll have to decide why he waited.''
Walsh told Goodell he did not tape the walkthrough and had no knowledge that any other Patriots employees did so, Goodell said. The commissioner also indicated he considered the investigation over after meeting with Walsh.
``The erroneous story really led to a second round of inquisitions after September, and it really was a distraction. The sad part (is) that it took away from an 18-0 Super Bowl season,'' Kraft said.
``We said back in September that we had disclosed all of our actions as an organization to the league. You can see this is true.''