By Tom E. Curran
With Panthers' owner Jerry Richardson taking heat for his conduct in the pre-Super Bowl sitdown between owners and players, Patriots' owner Robert Kraft -- a longtime friend of Richardson's -- hasdefended Richardson to the Rock Hill Herald"Since the Panthers joined the NFL, Jerry Richardson has been one of the league's most influential owners, frequently bridging any gaps among the ownership groups on various issues," said Kraft in a statement published Wednesday. "His unique background as a former NFL player and successful businessman helps form a perfect personality to co-chair the owner's negotiating committee. Anyone who has ever heard Jerry speak at the owners' meetings knows that he has reverent regard for the players in this league."There were plenty who heard Richardson speak to both Peyton Manning and Drew Brees at thatnegotiating session who did not describe Richardson's tone as "reverent."Our Quick Slants buddy Michael Silver from Yahoo! (via ProFootballTalk.com) said Richardson started out with a bad attitude and got worse from there.He was condescending to Peyton, a player who was at the meeting told Silver. "He tried to talk about P&L profit and loss statements and all these other risks that the owners assume, as if Peyton didnt know anything. Drew Brees interrupted and said, All were doing is just asking you to show us your books. We want to negotiate in good faith.Former Patriots Sean Morey, a Marshfield native, tried to bring up concussions and Richardson reportedly shot back, "You guys made so much expletive money -- if you played three years in the NFL, you should own your own expletive team."Silver reported that Kraft, Giants owner John Mara andChiefs owner Clark Hunt apologized to playersduring a break. If Kraft went to Richardson's defense, that's understandable. It's in contrast to the lack of solidarity seen when guys like Antonio Cromartie leans on his favorite pejorativeand someone like Kevin Mawae fires back. But if Kraft is going to be a bridge-builder in this, he needs to be careful to make sure his support of Richardson isn't seen as a defense of what -- if the fleet of reports are true -- is pretty indefensible for a group that should be interested in deal-making.