HOUSTON — The notion that there is a Deflategate revenge tour is not a fabrication nor an exaggeration, apparently.
It’s a real thing, at least in the view of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
As the Patriots seek their fifth Super Bowl title with Bill Belichick as their coach and Tom Brady as their quarterback, Kraft said Monday that the penalties imposed by the NFL for an alleged scheme to use underinflated footballs in the first half of the AFC title game at the conclusion of the 2014 season has energized the team’s fan base to a level not seen since early in the franchise’s run of success.
“In life, things happen,” Kraft said as he stood to the side during Super Bowl media night. “The league messed up royally the way they handled the whole thing, in my opinion. But still, we’re in a system that we agreed to adhere to what the rules of the system are. So I try to compartmentalize in my life and not get bogged down with the negative and try to support the positive. In a strange way, what happened, I think, has energized our fans so that they’re more energized in support of this team than, I think, except for the first [Super Bowl] or the second one than people could imagine. It’s just special.”
Brady dropped his legal challenge to the four-game suspension imposed on him by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and served it at the outset of this season. The Patriots won three of four games in his absence. Brady returned to have a season that put him in the league MVP conversation and advanced to his seventh career Super Bowl appearance. The Patriots face the Atlanta Falcons here Sunday.
Asked Monday whether the matter also is energizing inside the Patriots’ locker room, Kraft said: “Oh, yeah. Well, think about it. We were able to go 3-1 and then a lot of these young guys had never really saw Tom Brady in action. You see a guy come in who studies film, works harder, is approachable, and they were 6 or 7 years old, watching him on TV and now they’re playing with him. So how you balance that and do that is pretty tough.”
Kraft previously decided not to mount a legal challenge of the penalties imposed on the Patriots, a $1 million fine and the loss of two draft picks, including a first-round choice in last year’s NFL draft. He did ask Goodell to restore the first-round draft selection but Goodell denied that request.