Robert Kraft thought a new deal was coming.
The Patriots owner received a call from Tom Brady Monday night and figured it was to get the ball rolling on a new contract with the league year set to begin Wednesday.
“He reached out to me to come over and see me at my home in Brookline, and you know we had a very positive, loving discussion for quite a while,’’ Kraft said Tuesday morning in a telephone interview, shortly after Brady announced via social media that he’d be leaving the Patriots. “We talked about our 20-year relationship and how special it’s been and what we’ve accomplished.
“I expressed to him that I really hoped he could continue with us. When he called originally, I thought it was to put together a deal that would allow him to stay. But he made it clear to me he had given it a lot of thought.’’
It quickly became clear that Brady had made up his mind to move in another direction, and as much as it pained Kraft, he knew what he had to do.
“He convinced me it was best for him to move on, and sometimes when you love someone like a family member, you just have to respect it and let them do their thing,’’ said Kraft. “So, I’ve said, anyone who has given us 20 years of service and helped us win six Super Bowls that we would be respectful to.’’
Kraft said that if Brady’s desire was to stay in New England, the club would have made that happen.
“If he wanted to be here, we would have put a deal together,’’ he said. “That’s what I thought was happening last night.’’
Kraft and Brady have enjoyed an exceptionally close relationship since the Patriots drafted Brady in 2000. Kraft has told the story many times that when the two first met, Brady told him that drafting him was the “best decision this organization ever made.’’
“I’m not sure I said it like that — we dispute that all the time,’’ Brady said in January 2019. “I think I said, ‘I don’t think you’ll ever regret picking me,’ but he remembers it differently.’’
Kraft, who said Brady “was one of the five or six people who treated me like family” when Kraft’s wife, Myra, died in 2011, expressed gratitude and sadness and said he “had hoped this day would never come.”
Brady said last year that Kraft has been “like a second father to me,” noting the length of time he’s called New England home.
“He’s been a great influence in my life,’’ Brady said last January. “I’ve known him for 19 years — that’s a long time, longer than I was at home as a kid.
"He’s helped me in a lot of ways — his guidance, his timely advice at important moments in my life. Obviously I’ve grown up here.’’
Kraft said he ended Monday night’s meeting by telling Brady, “I love you more than you know, and he said he loved me too, and it’s not going to be the same.’’
Jim McBride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.