Patriots owner Robert Kraft says he "personally believes it's possible" for the NFL owners and players to reach agreement on a new labor agreement before Friday's deadline, and that he's prepared to leave Israel -- where he's on a trade mission in a group with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick -- if an agreement is close.
"If necessary, I might have to leave early," Kraft told a group of reporters, which included New England Cable News' Alison King, on Monday. A new labor deal, he said, is "a high priority."
"I made a commitment here, so we're going to finish the important things we're doing here," Kraft said. "We're in daily contact by phone. It's unfortunate. We're supposed to be settled by now. That's why we planned this trip for this week."
The collective bargaining agreement was supposed to expire last Friday, but the sides agreed to extend negotiations for a week.
"We're doing everything we can to get a deal consummated," said Kraft. "I personally believe it's possible . . .
"The good news is, it's always good to be talking when you have differences of opinion. It's the only way you have a chance to reach an agreement. So we're talking, and I know from ownership's side that we feel there's a deal to be made and we'd very much like to do it."
FOXBORO -- The Patriots had their All-Pro tight end back on the field for practice after he suffered an injury scare against the Saints in Week 2.
Rob Gronkowski (groin) joined other injured Patriots on the fields behind Gillette Stadium for Wednesday's workout, including Danny Amendola (missed the Saints game with a concussion and a knee injury), Dont'a Hightower (knee) and Matthew Slater (hamstring). Phillip Dorsett (left Sunday's game with a knee injury) was also present for practice, as was Chris Hogan, who appeared to be dealing with a leg injury versus the Saints.
Missing from the practice were Marcus Cannon and Rex Burkhead. Cannon was limited in practice last week with an ankle issue, and Burkhead suffered a ribs injury in New Orleans.
Gronkowski appeared to be moving well during the early portion of the practice. He took part in blocking drills with fellow tight end Dwayne Allen to start the practice and did not appear to be inhibited by the groin injury that knocked him from Sunday's win. The Patriots will release a practice report later in the day on Wednesday that indicates whether Gronkowski was at all limited.
JJ Watt ended up raising over $37 million for his Hurricane Harvey relief fund online. As it turns out, that number got a bump from a couple of his rivals in the AFC.
According to The Houston Chronicle, Watt told reporters on Wednesday that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady were among the over 209,000 people who donated to his fundraising efforts.
"That's an incredibly kind gesture and shows what kind of people they are and speaks volumes about their character," Watt said. "They're good people."
Watt will square off against Brady and Belichick when the Texans visit Gillette Stadium on Sunday. Belichick said on Wednesday that his team will have to focus on Watt, who was injured and unavailable during last season's Divisional Round matchup between the two clubs.
"The quickness that J.J. has with the power that he has is a pretty rare combination," Belichick said. "On top of that, he’s got great length and he’s got a great motor. You're not talking about a 6-foot-1 guy. You’re not talking about a guy that takes plays off. You’ve got to deal with his length, his power, his quickness on every single play. That in itself is difficult. He just wears guys down with effort and toughness.
"Then when you take the skill that he has and combine it all together, that puts him at a very – I mean you're talking about the best defensive player in the league for more than one year. He's got a lot going for him and he’s facing it every week. It’s not like he’s sneaking up on anybody. You know when you’re playing him that he’s going to get some extra attention. Every team knows where he is and every team is trying to make sure he doesn’t ruin the game, yet he’s still very, very disruptive. He’s a great player."