May 20, 2015 6:09 PM
Pats owner Kraft tries to let the air out of Deflategate
The Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Robert Kraft isn't challenging punishments handed to his Patriots in the deflated footballs scandal.
The players' union is ramping up the intensity in its appeal of New England quarterback Tom Brady's penalties.
So what else is left for the owners to consider in "Deflategate?"
Well, how the footballs are handled and secured before games certainly is one topic. Given the issues emanating from the AFC championship game, a solution to avoiding future problems needs to be reached soon: these are the last scheduled owners meetings until October.
Kraft himself made it clear Tuesday how critical it is for the NFL to put the subject to rest.
"The one thing that we all can agree upon is the entire process has taken way too long," he said while announcing the Patriots won't fight $1 million fine and loss of first-round (2016) and fourth-round (2017) draft picks. "I don't think anyone can believe that after four months (since) the AFC championship game we are still talking about air pressure and the psi in footballs."
The NFL requires a range of 12.5-13.5 pounds per square inch. Footballs with less pressure can be easier to grip and catch and some quarterbacks prefer those with less air.
Kraft knows the rhetoric won't abate with the NFL Players Association taking on the league in Brady's appeal of his four-game suspension for his role in underinflated footballs being used in the conference title game last January against Indianapolis. But he felt he was doing his part to lessen the talk.
"What I've learned over the last 21 years is the heart and soul and strength of the NFL," he said, "is the partnership of 32 teams. At no time should the agenda of one team outweigh the collective good of the 32."
Kraft also recognized the powers given to Commissioner Roger Goodell.
"Although I might disagree in what is decided, I do have respect for the commissioner, and believe he is doing what he perceives to be in the best interest of the 32," Kraft added.
Goodell, who will meet with the media Wednesday when the meetings conclude, has decided to hear Brady's appeal himself. The union on Tuesday officially requested that he recuse himself, saying he not only will be called as a witness, but that he is not impartial.
Brady's appeal should be heard within the next week.
An NFL spokesman said the league would have no comment on the union's request.
Kraft was livid when the Wells Report, which was commissioned by the NFL and took nearly four months to compile, contained what he termed "all circumstantial, no hard evidence." His refusal to appeal the discipline doesn't change his view of the investigation's findings.
One item the owners took care of amid the concentration on the air in footballs was kicking them for extra points. They voted 30-2 to move the snap for extra-point kicks from the 2-yard line to the 15. Two-point conversion tries will remain at the 2.
But defensive teams will be allowed to return blocked kicks or turnovers on the extra points to the other end zone to earn two points.
"There was strong sentiment coming out of our meetings in March that something had to be done with our extra point," said Texans general manager Rick Smith, a member of the competition committee that proposed this specific rule change. "From a kicking perspective, the try was over 99 percent (successful), so we tried to add skill to the play.
"It was also a ceremonial play."
New Orleans, Atlanta, South Florida and Tampa will bid for the 2019 and 2020 Super Bowls. The owners won't decide on who gets hosting honors until next year.
With discussions ongoing about a franchise returning to Los Angeles, the league said Wednesday that if a stadium is built in LA by 2018, then the city would become a candidate to host the 2020 Super Bowl.
Next year's game is in Santa Clara, California, followed by Houston and Minneapolis.