The Patriots offseason, like much of the world, has been existing virtually.
Robert Kraft, however, still has been operating in reality.
As the NFL awaits guidelines and protocols to proceed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Patriots owner has remained engaged in efforts to provide relief to those affected by the crisis.
Similar to the way his franchise has been at the forefront of the NFL for the last 20 years, Kraft has been at the forefront in championing ways to help out the New England community.
Kraft’s latest action in the comeback effort is donating his championship ring from Super Bowl LI — one of the great comeback stories of all-time — to the All-In Challenge, which is raising money to feed people affected by the coronavirus. As of Friday, bidding had exceeded $1 million, but who’d be surprised if it fetched $2.83 million?
The Kraft family has helped to deliver mounds of personal protection equipment for those on the front line, including using the team plane to transport 1.8 million respirator masks from China.
Another $180,000 was collected in donations to buy medical gowns for front-line workers.
Additionally, the Patriots and Revolution have provided more than 2 million meals to veteran and active military families throughout the region.
Other initiatives included the distribution of $250,000 worth of Chrome Books to Boston Public School students so they could continue to learn while at home, and a $100,000 donation to Casa Myrna, which provides support services to the survivors of domestic violence.
And while Gillette Stadium has been a football ghost town, it has been repurposed into a helpful hub in the fight.
The stadium where six Super Bowl championship banners hang now hosts blood drives three times a week and also serves as one of Massachusetts’s largest COVID-19 public safety testing sites. In addition, the stadium was the site of the recent graduation of the Massachusetts State Police class that featured a flyover of F-15s.
Kraft’s proactive charge shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. One of the league’s most respected owners, Kraft has always taken a leading position when it comes to problem solving.
Whether it was helping to negotiate the end of the protracted lockout of 2011 or hammering out lucrative broadcasting deals, Kraft has long been one of the NFL’s go-to players.
“He does stuff like that all the time,’’ Patriots running back James White said last month. “It starts from the top; as soon as you step in the building, you see how much community work the Kraft family does, and it’s very infectious.
"Each and every person who steps in the building tries to do as much as they can to help others out. It’s really cool to see.’’
Slayton believes Stidham will work just fine
Jarrett Stidham has received a lot of praise inside the walls of One Patriot Place, including compliments from Bill Belichick and teammates Devin McCourty and White, who were impressed by the quarterback’s compete level during his rookie season.
Stidham received some more love this week from former Auburn receiver Darius Slayton. The current Giants flanker’s words should provide some comfort to Patriots fans wondering whether Stidham can slide into one of the league’s most high-profile pockets.
“I think people should know that Jarrett is one of the hardest-working football players I’ve ever been around,” Slayton told Sirius XM’s Alex Marvez. “He’s truly a student of the game, and I think that’s why he’s going to have a chance to be a really good quarterback for the Patriots, because I know he’s going to put the time in.
“The arm and all that stuff, you know, that’s all God-given. Got that already. I think the separator that makes Tom Brady great is putting the time in and having the knowledge, and I think Jarrett is cut from that same kind of cloth.”
▪ There’s always a Cinderella story or two that develops in training camp, and wouldn’t it be fitting if this year it’s defensive tackle Bill Murray, the undrafted rookie out of William & Mary? Already a disruptive monster at 6 feet 4 inches, 275 pounds, Murray has room to grow his body and his game.
A two-time All-CAA selection, he collected 143 tackles, 19 sacks, and blocked 10 kicks in college.
Murray, who could contribute immediately on special teams as he learns New England’s defense, even caught a 2-point conversion pass last season. So he’s got that going for him. Which is nice.
▪ Joe Thuney and Ted Karras worked side-by-side all last season — and not just on the field. The two offensive linemen recently earned MBAs from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business as part of the NFL Players Association’s continuing education program.
▪ Tom Brady hit back at the report that a “deteriorating relationship” with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels contributed to his New England exit. In a social media post, Brady wrote “please stop this nonsense!” and called the two of them “brothers for life.”
Save for some normal heated in-game moments between the two, I’ve never seen anything to suggest even a sliver of friction. Their interactions at practice suggest nothing but mutual respect and indicate they were almost always on the same page.