New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft disagrees with the way in which NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has gone about punishing his football team for Deflategate, but Kraft's conflict with the NFL and the commissioner are going to end there.
Speaking at the NFL owners meetings in San Francisco on Tuesday, Kraft informed reporters -- and NFL fans everywhere -- that the Patriots will accept the penalties handed down by the NFL. The team will not appeal its punishment.
"I don't want to continue the rhetoric that has gone on for the last four months," Kraft said. "I'm going to accept, reluctantly, what [Goodell] has given to us and not continue this dialogue and rhetoric. And we won't appeal."
Why the Patriots accepted the penalties
When it came time to make his decision -- after the release of the Wells Report and after the NFL punished the Patriots -- Kraft said that he knew he had two options: He could continue to publicly criticize the league and fight back, or he could accept the penalties and allow the league to move past the scandal.
After what he called an "an emotionally charged couple of weeks," Kraft ultimately chose to go down without extending the fight.
During his press conference, Kraft said he valued the collective good of the NFL and all 32 teams, as opposed to simply valuing his own individual team.
Kraft told a story about his first time going to an NFL owners meeting, and how he, in that moment, vowed to do two things: He wanted to turn the Patriots into a great team and he wanted to help the NFL mold itself into the most popular sports league in the U.S.
"What I've learned over the last two decades is that the heart and soul of the strength of the NFL is the partnership of 32 teams," Kraft said. "What's become very clear over those two decades is that at no time should the agenda of one team outweigh the collective good of the full 32."
What this means for the Patriots
By not fighting back, Kraft has locked the Patriots into a future that won't involve a first-round pick in 2016 and a fourth rounder in 2017. And they'll still be down $1 million.
While Kraft knows Patriots fans might be upset with him, he made it clear that he understands there are two polar opposite sides in this debate. He also made it clear that he knows that the two sides -- those who support the Patriots and those who feel the Patriots are in the wrong -- will never agree.
"Now I know that a lot of Patriots fans are going to be disappointed in that decision, but I hope they trust my judgment and know that I really feel at this point in time that taking this off the agenda, this is the best thing for the New England Patriots, our fans, and the NFL," Kraft said. "And I hope you all can respect that."
How we got here
On January 18, the Patriots shellacked the Colts in the AFC Championship Game. The final score of the game was 45-7. The numbers that ended up mattering the most were the PSI levels of the footballs used by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during that game.
After a lengthy investigation into the PSI levels of the Patriots footballs, the Wells Report was finally released on May 6. Inside the 243-page report, investigator Ted Wells concluded that Brady probably conspired to have his footballs deflated to not-allowed levels. He also concluded that head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots organization were not aware of what was occurring.
After the release of the report, Kraft -- among others -- criticized Wells' findings. And when the NFL threw its punishments at Brady, Kraft went on the offensive, telling Sports Illustrated's Peter King on Sunday that the punishments weren't fair. Then on Monday, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the NFL and the Patriots were attempting to use back channels to resolve the dispute.
Now, here we are, fresh off the press conference that may have finally ended this mess.
It's worth noting that even though he ultimately backed down from the fight, Kraft didn't hesitate to continue his criticism of Goodell and the league's handling of the scandal since it first became one back in January. As Kraft said in his press conference, "the entire process has taken way too long."
He also added that he thought the NFL's discipline was "over the top" and "unreasonable."
What about Tom Brady
Brady has already submitted his appeal to his four-game suspension, and Kraft's refusal to fight the NFL on the Patriots' penalties does not apply to Brady's suspension, which will be handled separately.
But who knows, with Kraft ending his fight against the NFL, maybe the NFL will soften its stance on Brady.
Before Kraft walked off stage, a reporter tried to ask him what this all meant for Brady. But Kraft didn't answer the question or any other inquiries. He was already gone, putting the press conference -- and all of Deflategate -- behind him.