Passionate Kraft makes case for deal-making


Passionate Kraft makes case for deal-making

By Tom E. Curran
DALLAS - Robert Kraft has drawn praise over his 17-year tenure as one of the most forward-thinking, influential owners in the NFL. Now, with players and owners in an ugly squabble over how to divide the mountain of revenue the game generates, the Patriots owner seems to be taking it personally. Friday afternoon at the Super Bowl 45 media center in Dallas, Kraft's eyes got glassy when talking about the squabbling that's ongoing. Asked if would take it as a personal failing if accord can't be reached, Kraft said, "I think I will have failed if I can't help get ... I've never seen the health of a business be as bright as this one. I'm involved in a lot of businesses and this is an awesome business. It's a privilege to be able to own an NFL franchise and to have a labor disruption at this point in time of the evolution of the game, it's criminal. It will be sad. It will fall on both sides."And emotional?"It is emotional," he acknowledged."Most businesses you're in, you're fixing problems where there's not a lot of upside. There's tremendous upside. The whole digital media opportunities and what our content can drive and partnering with the right companies. ... We have the essence of a business that can prosper and flourish for the next 15 years if we get this right. And it's not very hard to do."Frustrated would probably be the best way to describe Kraft's mood on Friday. Calling repeatedly for the two sides to get the lawyers away from the table and let the businessmen hammer out an accord, Kraft was pointed in many of his comments. "There's no reason for us to have a lockout, I'll say it again," Kraft stressed. "There's enough elements there that we can do a deal and everyone's going to come out a winner. We've just got to get the lawyers away from the table."With both sides lawyered up to their eyeballs, how pragmatic is it to think that's possible? "Put them in the background," Kraft said. "Lawyers are deal-breakers, not deal-makers. That's what my union experience has shown me. I mean, you need them, you play a good role, but they're all there to show how smart they are and always looking at the downside."Kraft twice raised an instance he thought was evidence of legal-wrangling gone bad. The players, according to Kraft, spent 15 million on a case trying to prove owners were negligent in hammering out the new TV deal and getting provisions to allow the owners to be paid in the event of a stoppage. "They collected 15 million in fees that the players paid, think about that! If it's coming out of your pockets, and I'm managing our lawyers, if they're not adding value, tell them to zip it," said Kraft. "I need them to keep, to protect me from myself, but business people do business deals, not lawyers."The problem is, the union does not trust the owners. That's why they are going to battle so hard in the courts and will never get their lawyers off the front line. In the situation Kraft referenced, the owners were reportedly fined 7 million for doing a deal that hada provision for them to be paid during a work stoppage. To get that provision, they took less from the networks to get that provision. Yet theywere supposed to negotiate in good faith tomaximize revenues for bothowners and players, since players get 60 percent ofthe revenue. "The irony," Kraft said. "I worked very hard with the commissioner to extend these contracts when the financial world was falling apart and we realized the main source of our revenue was these media contracts. We went out ina very difficult environment and were able to conclude extensions of these contracts to protect the players income and the owners income. For them to sue over soemthing like that, it just shows you how out of touch....there are so many things we can do to create new partnership opportunities and grow and we have to get the lawyers away from the table and get business leaders on both sides." Kraft will be in a Saturday negotiating session. What does he plan on saying?
"I'd like to say exactly what I'm saying here," he stated. "From my point of view, how lucky are we to have a business, to be part of a business, we're in today, where the American wants it, where people want to partner with us and they don't want to hear, people don't want to hear about our squabbling And it's criminal if we don't get a deal done. I mean, there's enough business opportunities where the players can make out well, owners can make out well and we can grow the sport. We just gotta sit down and start talking business. It's all legal posturing now.".AOLWebSuite .AOLPicturesFullSizeLink height: 1px; width: 1px; overflow: hidden; .AOLWebSuite a color:blue; text-decoration: underline; cursor: pointer .AOLWebSuite a.hsSig cursor: default
Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Giardi: Butler's offseason may cut deep, but it's time for him to battle back


Giardi: Butler's offseason may cut deep, but it's time for him to battle back

This hasn’t been easy for Malcolm Butler. None of it. He’s never been given anything. Hell, at times he’s pissed his future away. But with a tenacity that reminds you of a certain 199th pick in the 2000 draft, Butler has fought his way back, into college, into the pros and, in 2015 and 2016, into the upper echelon of NFL cornerbacks. He’s a two-time Super Bowl champ, making arguably the most memorable play in the history of that game.

He should be drinking in the adulation, savoring an incredible start to his career and a very lucrative future. Instead, he’s in both professional and Patriots purgatory. Free agency beckons but there’s a season to play, and as this is the only professional team he’s known, a burning desire to be recognized as an important piece, not just in the present, but the future of this organization as well.
One of his closest friends on the team, Dion Lewis, calls Butler a warrior. “The game means so much to him.”

Another teammate, fellow defensive back Devin McCourty said of Butler, “This is what he does. He competes.”

Duron Harmon insists that the 27-year-old corner has been the same guy he’s always been. Actually, they all say that. But clearly, the coaching staff sees something different, leading to Butler’s demotion Sunday in New Orleans. 
Bill Belichick has been short when talking about Butler dating all the way back to the spring. That hasn’t changed now that the games count. He’s dismissed past performance. All that matters is how you’re playing now. Butler has not established that same level. Why? There is no easy answer.
The lack of a new contract cuts deeply. The unsettling offseason -- was he going to be a Saint? -- left quite a mark as well. But Butler came back to Foxboro with purpose, reporting for voluntary workouts. He was hell-bent on proving to all -- Belichick included -- that he was still the lead dog, not Stephon Gillmore, despite the $31 million dollars in guaranteed money the organization forked over to the former Buffalo Bill.
That strategy worked for a time. Butler was one of the Pats best players in training camp, right up until the joint practices with the Texans midway through August. What happened? Butler doesn’t know. But one mistake became two. His play in the preseason game with Houston was poor. His confidence suffered. He started pressing. That didn’t help. Butler was just as bad at Detroit. The kid that had always answered a knockdown with one of his own, instead wobbled to his feet. The inconsistencies were evident in practice but the "he's-Malcolm-he'll-fix-it" thought process that teammates echoed didn’t prove true, at least not entirely.
According to Eric Rowe, the cornerbacks were informed of the role change at the beginning of last week. But other teammates said they didn’t realize Butler wasn’t starting until the walkthrough Saturday. The ensuing fallout wasn’t surprising -- HE’S MALCOLM BUTLER, SUPER BOWL HERO, DAMMIT -- but the worry around the team has been justified because Butler takes things to heart. His swagger comes from the game. That was stripped away prior to the game against the Saints, and even at the beginning of this week, leading into the Texans game. Butler had to get his head right. If his meeting with the media Thursday is an indication, he has.

But the proof is in the play. Butler has always known that. And while his play didn’t warrant a role reduction, another message has been sent by the powers that be in Foxboro. What happens next is all on Butler. His future depends on it.


Patriots place Vincent Valentine on IR, promote Geneo Grissom


Patriots place Vincent Valentine on IR, promote Geneo Grissom

FOXBORO -- Anyone hoping to see Vincent Valentine make his season debut got some bad news Friday. 

Valentine, who has been inactive for both of the Patriots' first two games with a knee injury, was placed on injured reserve. ESPN's Field Yates was first to report the news.

With Valentine on IR, Geneo Grissom was added to the roster from the practice squad. ESPN's Mike Reiss had that one first:

Valentine, whom the Pats chose 96th overall in 2016, has not been practicing with the team as he's dealt with the knee injury.

A third-round pick of the Pats in 2015, Grissom was released by the team in September and signed to the practice squad a day later.