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

Does Butler want to be with Patriots beyond 2017? 'Whatever happens, happens'

Does Butler want to be with Patriots beyond 2017? 'Whatever happens, happens'

FOXBORO -- Malcolm Butler came off of the Gillette Stadium practice field to a gaggle of reporters who had been interested in speaking to him all offseason. There had been speculation not too long ago that he'd be traded. There was speculation he might sign elsewhere as a restrcited free agent.

What he would say on those topics might prove to be informative. People were eager to hear from him. But it was what he didn't say that may have been the most interesting part of his first back-and-forth with reporters since Super Bowl LI.

In the rain, in front of a dozen or more microphones, following his team's third organized team activity practice, Butler was asked if he would like to be in New England beyond the 2017 season, the final year of his contract. 

"Can't predict the future," he said. "Whatever happens, happens."

Butler was given several opportunities to say that he'd like to stick with the Patriots for the long term, but he was non-committal. Though his presence on the roster for this season gives the Patriots a supremely talented cornerback duo, the fact that the team gave Stephon Gilmore a lucrative long-term contract this offseason makes Butler's long-term future in New England a bit hazy.

Playing for a restricted free agent tender worth $3.91 million, Butler was asked if it was difficult to separate the business side of things from his on-field performance.

"Not really," he insisted. "Just gotta come here and just play football. You gotta earn everything you want. Gotta come here, work hard each and every day. Nobody's gonna give you nothing."

He added: "Just gotta keep working. Ignore the noise, and just keep working. No matter what. You got a job to do no matter where you're at. Glad to be here to do this job."

Butler received significant interest from the Saints during the offseason, and he made a trip to New Orleans to visit the organization's facilities there. Unwilling to provide Butler with a big-money contract offer and turn over their first-round pick to the Patriots, the Saints decided to cease in their pursuit of the 27-year-old Super Bowl XLIX hero. 

Butler said he didn't wasn't always sure he was going to be in New England for 2017.

"You never know what's gonna happen, I was just sitting back patiently waiting," he explained. "Just doing what I can do, control only what I can control. I'm here now and that's what it is."

That Butler has been at Patriots workouts and OTA practices since signing his tender is an indication that he's ready to throw himself into the upcoming season with his sights set on performing as well as possible in order to put himself in the best position possible when he's scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency at the end of the year. 

"Wasn't gonna hurt nobody but myself if I missed this," he admitted. "This is extra time to get better, and that's what I'm out here to do. To get better and have another great year. Anything to help the team. Present a positive image."