The NFL owners' meetings begin in San Francisco on Tuesday, but don't expect to see progress in the crippled relationship between NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
In a defiant interview with SI.com's Peter King, Kraft expressed anger over the penalties the NFL issued the Patriots following its Deflategate investigation. Kraft said receiving "the harshest penalty in league history is just not fair" based on the NFL not having definitive evidence the team manipulated footballs.
“If they want to penalize us because there’s an aroma around this? That’s what this feels like," Kraft said. "If you don’t have the so-called smoking gun, it really is frustrating. And they don’t have it. This thing never should have risen to this level.”
Ted Wells, an attorney hired by the NFL to conduct the Deflategate investigation, concluded it was "more probable than not" that quarterback Tom Brady was "generally aware" of team attendants deflating footballs before the AFC Championship game on Jan. 18. In addition to suspending Brady for four games, the league also took two future draft picks from the Patriots and fined the franchise $1 million. Brady is appealing the suspension.
One of Kraft's main points of contention stems from evidence gathered during the halftime inspection of the footballs. Since it is not standard procedure to test air pressure in balls during games, Kraft argued the results do not implicate the Patriots of wrongdoing. This argument also was part of a detailed, point-by-point response the Patriots released last week that aimed to undermine the credibility of Wells' investigation.
"Footballs have never been measured at halftime of any other game in NFL history,” Kraft said. "They have no idea how much footballs go down in cold weather or expand in warm weather. There is just no evidence that tampering ever happened."
Exponent, a scientific and engineering consultant firm used by Wells, concluded "the difference in air pressure between the Patriots and Colts footballs based on halftime measurements is statistically significant."
Kraft also suggested in the interview the NFL may have too much power when it comes to implementing rules and standards. He believes the the Deflategate investigation took into account only evidence that went against the Patriots.
"If we’re giving all the power to the NFL and the office of the commissioner, this is something that can happen to all 32 teams," Kraft said. "We need to have fair and balanced investigating and reporting. But in this report, every inference went against us ... inferences from ambiguous, circumstantial evidence all went against us. That’s the thing that really bothers me."
In addition, Kraft said Brady told him he had no involvement with the deflating of footballs.
"He’s a man, and he’s always been honest with me, and I trust him," Kraft said. "I believed what he told me. He has never lied to me, and I have found no hard or conclusive evidence to the contrary."
As for the status of his relationship with Goodell, Kraft simply said, "You'll have to ask him."