Kraft to fans: ‘I was wrong to put my faith in the league'

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FOXBORO -- In a surprise press conference on Wednesday morning, Robert Kraft said that he "unequivocally" supports Tom Brady. The Patriots chairman and CEO also apologized to fans for accepting the league's punishment -- a $1 million fine and the loss of two draft picks -- in May. 

"I was wrong to put my faith in the league," Kraft said.

Originally it was Patriots coach Bill Belichick who was scheduled to speak to the media at 10 a.m. Instead, Kraft took to the podium first and Belichick followed. 

"In light of yesterday's league ruling," Kraft said, "I felt it was important to make a statement today prior to the start of training camp. After this, I will not be talking about this matter until after the legal process plays itself out, and I would advise everyone in the organization to do the same and just concentrate on the preparation for the 2015 season."

Then the fireworks began. 

"The decision handed down by the league yesterday is unfathomable to me," Kraft said. "It is routine for discipline in the NFL to be reduced upon appeal. In the vast majority of these cases, there is tangible and hard evidence of the infraction for which the discipline is being imposed, and still the initial penalty gets reduced. Six months removed from the AFC Championship Game, the league still has no hard evidence of anybody doing anything to tamper with the PSI levels of footballs. I continue to believe and unequivocally support Tom Brady.

"I, first and foremost, need to apologize to our fans because I truly believe what I did in May, given the actual evidence of the situation, and the league's history on disciplinary matters, would make it much easier for the league to exonerate Tom Brady. Unfortunately that was wrong.

"The league's handling of this entire process has been extremely frustrating and disconcerting. I will never understand why an initial erroneous report regarding the PSI level of footballs that was leaked by a source from the NFL a few days after the AFC Championship Game was never corrected by those who had the correct information. For four months, that report cast dispersions and shaped public opinion.

"Yesterday's decision by commissioner [Roger] Goodell was released in a similar matter under an erroneous headline that read: 'Tom Brady destroyed his cell phone.' This headline was designed to capture headlines across the country and obscure evidence regarding the tampering of air pressure in footballs. It intentionally implied nefarious behavior and minimized the acknowledgement that Tom provided the history of every number he texted during that relevant time frame. And we had already provided the league with every cell phone of every non-NFLPA employee that they requested, including head coach Bill Belichick.

"Tom Brady is a person of great integrity and a great ambassador of the game, both on and off the field. Yet for reasons that I cannot comprehend, there are those in the league office who are more determined to prove that they were right rather than admit any culpability of their own, or take any responsibility for the initiation of a process and ensuing investigation that was flawed. 

"I've come to the conclusion that this was never about doing what was fair and just. Back in May, I had to make a difficult decision that I now regret. I tried to do what I thought was right. I chose not to take legal action. I wanted to return the focus to football. I have been negotiating agreements on a global basis my entire life. I know there are times when you have to give up important points of principle to achieve a greater good. I acted in good faith and was optimistic that by taking the actions I took that the league would have what they wanted. I was willing to accept the harshest penalty in the history of the NFL for an allege ball violation because I believed it would help exonerate Tom. I have often said, if you want to get a deal done, sometimes you have to get the lawyers out of the room. In the hopes that Tom Brady's appeal to the league would provide the necessary explanation to overturn his suspension, now the league has taken the matter to court, which is a tactic that only a lawyer would recommend. 

"Once again, I want to apologize to the fans of the New England Patriots and Tom Brady. I was wrong to put my faith in the league. Given the facts, evidence and laws of science that underscored this entire situation, it is completely incomprehensible to me that the league continues to take steps to disparage one of its all-time great players, and a man for whom I have the utmost respect. Personally, this is very sad and disappointing to me. 

"I know the real reason you came here was to hear from CB so I'll turn the podium over to him."

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