The Slatest

New England Patriots Won’t Appeal Deflategate Punishment, or Sue League

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft in happier times at the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party.

Photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez/AFP/Getty Images

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said on Tuesday that he would not appeal the NFL’s punishment for deflategate, which included a $1 million fine and the loss of a first-round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth-round pick in 2017.

The decision does not officially affect the NFL Players Association’s appeal of star quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension, which is expected to be heard by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

“Although I might disagree with what is decided, I do have respect for the commissioner and believe that he’s doing what he believes to be in the best interests of the [league’s] full 32 [teams], so in that spirit I don’t want to continue the rhetoric that’s gone on for the last four months. I’m going to accept reluctantly what he has given to us,” Kraft said. “I wont’ appeal.”

The move came as a surprise turnaround from the team’s previous strategy of aggressive self-defense against the league’s official report on the scandal over whether two team employees were involved in intentionally deflating footballs for the benefit of Brady. Last week, the team attempted a forceful rebuttal of the Wells Report’s findings that it was more likely than not that the team intentionally deflated footballs in the AFC Championship game and that Brady was aware of it.

As recently as Monday, Kraft was quoted by MMBQ’s Peter King as saying the evidence against the Patriots was “ambiguous,” and refusing say whether or not he might sue the NFL.

Kraft acknowledged in his statement that “maybe if I’d made the decision last week it would be different than it is today.”

Things apparently cooled off between Kraft and Goodell over the weekend, though, with Adam Schefter reporting that the two longtime friends were not just on speaking terms again, but were back on hugging terms.

In his announcement on Tuesday, Kraft framed his decision as being for the “good of the league” and a one that he made essentially to change the subject from the four-month long circus that has taken place since January’s AFC Championship game.

“I know a lot of Patriots fans are going to be disappointed,” he said. “I hope they trust my judgment and know that taking this off the agenda—this is the best thing for the New England Patriots, our fans, and the NFL.”

Kraft closed by saying he really wanted to change the subject: “I would normally take questions, but my desire is truly not to continue the rhetoric.”

He may or may not get his wish depending on what happens next with Brady’s appeal. If the suspension is reduced significantly, or even in part, then there will be plenty of conspiracy theorizing going around suggesting that Kraft and Goodell reached some kind of a side deal.

We’ll know shortly how that appeal plays out. Under the collective bargaining agreement, the NFL has ten days from the time of a player’s appeal to schedule a hearing. Brady’s appeal was filed on Thursday.