Passionate Patriots owner Kraft speaks about 'Deflategate'
CHANDLER, Ariz. -- New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft opened Monday's press conference with a stern statement in which he voiced displeasure for the way the NFL is handling the "Deflategate" investigation and how media is covering it, with assumption of guilt from the head coach to quarterback and, by association, the entire franchise.
Kraft said he expects hard facts, not "circumstantial leaked evidence" to drive the investigation. And if the probe does not turn up evidence that the Patriots tampered with the footballs, Kraft said he wants the NFL to own up to its errors.
"I would expect and hope that the league would apologize to our entire team, and in particular coach (Bill) Belichick and Tom Brady for what they've had to endure this past week," Kraft said.
Kraft said he is confident, based on the relationship going on 15 years together with coach and quarterback, that Belichick and Brady are telling the truth when they say they had no knowledge of intent to break rules.
Kraft said he is confident the investigation by NFL-appointed Ted Wells will be in "direct contrast to the public discourse fueled by media leaks" that led to strong accusations of his coach, quarterback and staff.
"I know how difficult it is to get to this game," Kraft said, referring to the Super Bowl. "Given the events of the last week, I want to take a minute to address the air-pressure matter before we kick off this week's media availabilities. ... I've spoken with coach Belichick. I've spoken with Tom Brady. ... I want to make it clear, unconditionally, that the New England Patriots have done nothing wrong or in violation of NFL rules."
Belichick said he appreciated Kraft's words and said he is "forever indebted" to Kraft for making him his head coach.
"We have a great personal relationship, we have a great professional relationship," Belichick said.
Belichick also said he is done airing thoughts on the NFL investigation into how 11 of 12 AFC Championship Game footballs introduced by the Patriots became underinflated.
"Our team has worked very hard all through the year, I'm very proud of what they've done. We're very much looking forward to the week of preparation here in Arizona," Belichick said Monday, a few hours after the Patriots touched down in Phoenix and made the way to their team headquarters for the week at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass.
"I've spent as you know quite a bit of time and had two lengthy press conferences about that. My intention is to turn my attention to the Seattle Seahawks. I've covered everything that I can cover."
Brady said he is moving forward from Deflategate, that he is past the initial hurt feelings.
"That's what the team expects from me," Brady said. "We've dealt with a lot of adversity. We have to deal with some more. Hopefully we can come out and get a win. That would be the most satisfying thing."
Meanwhile, Ted Wells, one of the NFL's lead investigators in the case of the underinflated footballs, said Monday that "no one should draw any conclusions" and the investigation is expected to last several more weeks.
Wells' statement came after Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported Monday that NFL investigators are focused on a New England Patriots locker-room attendant.
According to Glazer's report, the attendant allegedly took balls from the officials' locker room to another area on the way to field before the game.
The league's investigators have interviewed the attendant and have video, Glazer's sources said, and the league is trying to determine whether the attendant did anything wrong.
Wells, who oversaw the 2013 investigation into the Miami Dolphins' bullying scandal, released a statement Monday, saying: "We are following customary investigative procedures and no one should draw any conclusions about the sequence of interviews or any other steps, all of which are part of the process of doing a thorough and fair investigation. I expect the investigation to take at least several more weeks.
"In the interim, it would be best if everyone involved or potentially involved in this matter avoids public comment concerning the matter until the investigation is concluded. The results will be shared publicly."