BOCA RATON, Fla. — Roger Goodell just completed his 10th season as NFL commissioner, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft thinks he has done a pretty good job overall.
“Putting personal situations aside, I think he’s done a very good job,” Kraft said Monday. “He’s worked hard, the health of the league has not been better. We have our issue, that we don’t think has been handled well, but it is what it is.”
Oh, right. The Patriots’ “issue” — losing a first-round draft pick because of Deflategate, and the potential of a four-game suspension for Tom Brady still looming.
Kraft, speaking at the NFL owners meetings at the Boca Raton Resort, said, “I pray and desire” that the Patriots get their first-round pick back — as well as the fourth-round pick and $1 million in fines they were docked.
But he is resigned to the fact that they won’t. Kraft said the league’s bylaws limit his options for fighting the punishments, and he hasn’t received much, if any, support from the other 31 owners.
“I don’t think you’ll see any momentum among our peers,” he said. “I wish they would, because they could be in a similar position, but we have put our best case forward and that’s in the league’s hands now.
“When you join the NFL, it’s a partnership, and you agree to abide by certain rules and conditions. And we have tried to work the system as best we can, and now it’s working its way out.”
But that doesn’t mean that Kraft and the Patriots have stopped fighting their case. Kraft said he wrote a letter to Goodell a little more than a month ago stating that the Patriots deserve their first-round pick back. Kraft intimated that he also asked Goodell to waive Brady’s four-game suspension and highlighted the fact that Brady had another excellent season despite new rules that placed heightened security around the custody of the footballs.
“I personally wrote a letter to the commissioner responding to his comment that if any new facts came up, he would take them into consideration,” said Kraft. “And I personally believe that when the league made their decision, they did not factor in the ideal gas law. They admitted that publicly.
“They’ve had a full year of being able to observe Tom Brady play with all the rules of whatever the NFL was and make any judgments there, and we have laid it out pretty straightforward, and now it’s up to them to decide.”
Kraft declined to comment on whether the NFL responded to his letter, and a league spokesman declined to comment as well.
“In this age of parity, the salary cap, it’s very hard to compete without the lifeblood of the draft, so we understand the importance [of losing a first-round pick],” Kraft said. “And I assure you, we’ve done everything we can do that has a chance of success.”
Kraft also expressed disappointment that the NFL has declined to release data from its own football-testing procedures during the 2015 season. In the wake of Deflategate, the NFL instituted several safeguards for protecting the custody of the footballs, and also said that it would test the PSI of footballs before, during, and after randomly selected games.
“They did their own testing, they have results, but for whatever reason, they haven’t shared them with any of us,” Kraft said. “And we actually requested that at the beginning of the season that they test every game throughout the league and do that, but they chose to do it their own way.”
The NFL has declined to reveal how many games were chosen at random, and any results of the PSI testing. Goodell said at the Super Bowl that there were “no violations” of the new “spot check” rules this year. When asked to clarify what “no violations” meant, NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent said last week that the new chain-of-custody procedures were not broken, but he said nothing about PSI levels and whether the league actually tested any of the footballs.
NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino clarified Monday to the Globe that the NFL did in fact perform PSI testing at halftime and postgame but again stated that “no violations” meant there were no violations in the football-custody procedures.
It is still unclear whether any football tested last season measured below 12.5 PSI. The Patriots’ footballs at the 2015 AFC Championship game all tested below 12.5, but at the time the NFL did not understand the concept of the ideal gas law when determining that the Patriots had broken the rules.
“We’ve done everything we can do, and actually I want our fans to know that I empathize with the way they feel,” said Kraft.
Kraft also touched on a couple of other topics in a 12-minute press conference.
He opened by addressing the recent two-year contract extension for Brady, which could keep him as the Patriots quarterback through the 2019 season when he will be 42 years old.
“We have the privilege of extending Tom Brady for two more years, so please, God, that works out in full,” Kraft said. “And we’ll have the privilege of having in my opinion the greatest quarterback of all time with us for 20 years.”
Kraft indirectly addressed trading Chandler Jones to the Cardinals for a second-round draft pick and offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper, saying, “I think the trades we were able to do, I think, are positive long term for the Patriots.”
Kraft also called the return of offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia “a big plus,” and said that Brady is excited about new tight end Martellus Bennett, acquired last week in a trade with the Bears.
“I know that Tom Brady’s very happy with that addition,” Kraft said.
Kraft also said he didn’t believe Rob Gronkowski is unhappy with his contract, which will pay the tight end $31 million over the next four years. Gronkowski said on Twitter this month that he’s “underpaid.”
“Every time I see him, he’s smiling, he hugs me, he almost lifts me up,” Kraft said. “So I think he’s quite happy to be here, and we love having him, and we got him a partner in Martellus Bennett that we think they should be a pretty fun combo for our fans to watch this year.”
While he is still one of the highest-paid tight ends, Gronkowski makes about half of what elite wide receivers make.
“I’m waiting for one of these same people to come and say, ‘We’re overpaid, please take that money and give it to some of my other friends who play on the team,’ ” Kraft quipped.
“It’s funny, everybody believes that their contribution is maybe sometimes greater than it is. And I was talking with one of the senior folks of the Broncos, and they have an interesting situation going on there now where everybody is coming and wants their fair share. So we understand.”
And Kraft defended the sport of football, which has come under fire in recent years for concussions and other head injuries.
“I think the game of football has never been safer than it is today,” Kraft said. “I played, my sons have played, I have three grandsons who play now, so we have three generations of playing this game. We believe in it.
“My family plays it because I think life lessons and what you get out of playing football is way beyond the risks of what happens. I honestly believe that the risks are being managed as well as they can be today, and the game has never been better.”