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Jonathan Kraft on D&H: Brady relationship ‘stronger’

08.07.10 at 11:30 am ET
By
Jonathan Kraft

Jonathan Kraft

The Dale & Holley show aired live from Patriots training camp Friday afternoon, and the hosts talked to Pats president Jonathan Kraft about the NFL from the front office perspective. Kraft talked about the urge to increase the regular season to 18 games, any kind of change that could be made to the oft-criticized rookie pay scale and the quality of the relationship between Tom Brady and the front office.

“From where I sit, the relationship we’ve had with him and the relationship that I’ve had with him has always been the same and if anything, it’s stronger,” Kraft said. “I’ll echo what [owner] Robert [Kraft] has said a bunch of times, I really believe that Tom Brady is going to be the quarterback of this team for a long time to come.”

Below are highlights. To listen to the full interview, click on the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

On expanding the regular season to 18 games:

At the end of the day, we’re all in a business where we want to serve the fans’ needs, and right now it’s pretty clear that the fan base is no longer enamored [with] the 16 [game regular season] and four [game preseason]. To be really frank about it, I’m not sure the players need [four preseason games].

When you look at it right now, [to cut] two of those games, they’re going to need to be more efficient in managing their time and using practice right and probably they’ll end up doing what we’re doing here with the Saints next week, where you bring a team in and you really see a lot in practice. What I think you’d see in those practices they’ll use the rookies a fair amount — the younger guys — and see how they’re doing there. At the end of the day, the players and their conditioning and what they do in the offseason has evolved to the place where we just don’t need four preseason games.

The economic model has built up over time where it’s a 20-game season. It’s not like you can go and play a 16 and two. You can’t take that out of the mix with what the NFL annual product is, but taking two of the games and making them regular-season games feels like it’s the right thing to do. The fans want it, I think our business partners do and the commissioner is working with the [players] union to make sure that the players have a say in this thing, too.

On the fans’ displeasure with the preseason:

They don’t [like it], or they don’t like the length of the preseason. I think the training camp is a really special time and these couple of weeks before the first preseason game really lets the fans get up close and personal with NFL players and the game of the NFL in a way you don’t get to do during the regular season. Right now, the first half of that first game and the third game really matter, and I think the second and fourth game most fans feel like they could do without. When we talk internally, when you talk to Bill [Belichick] and you talk to the staff, I think they’ll have to change things up a little but they feel like they’ll be able to accomplish it with two games and maybe a controlled scrimmage.

On expanding the rosters to accommodate the larger schedule:

You could make the case that the competition committee talks about the rosters all the time anyhow and I think that in this collective bargaining agreement that will come at some point in the next year that that will be one of the things that gets talked about. I think anything that makes good sense for the game and the higher quality product on the field, at least from an owner’s perspective, is going to be on the table. At the end of the day, the way our economic system is set up, the players benefit from the game growing and so they’re going to have an interest in that too. If that’s something that makes a lot of sense, then I think it’ll be included in the agreement.

On Tom Brady:

I saw him this morning and we had a great conversation. Very warm and friendly. And I think the media sometimes has to talk about things that they want to talk about and we appreciate that so many people are paying attention to us, but Tom Brady is somebody regardless of as a football player and a member of this organization, he’s just somebody I have great admiration for and somebody that I like a tremendous amount and is a great guy.

From where I sit, the relationship we’ve had with him and the relationship that I’ve had with him has always been the same and if anything, it’s stronger. It’s people’s job in the media to speculate and write things and fill space on the web or in print or airtime. That’s a high-profile thing, and we get it, but I’ll echo what Robert has said a bunch of times, I really believe that Tom Brady is going to be the quarterback of this team for a long time to come.

The realities of trying to get a contract of that magnitude and complexity done, when you truly do not know the rules of the road going forward, makes it complicated for each side to be sure that they’re not doing something that dramatically impacts them from a positive perspective going forward. From a team’s perspective, without knowing the rules of the salary cap and how dollars are going to be allocated going forward and how other rules are going to work, you want to make sure that you aren’t going to do something that is going to hamstring you going forward long term.

From Tom’s perspective, I think he wants to be sure that he’s not leaving a tremendous amount of money, or some other type of term, on the table. That doesn’t mean the two sides can’t work together to try to think through what those are and come up with an agreement that protects each side in virtually all of the ways that the CBA can end up playing out. My guess is that’s what a bunch of other teams are doing around the league who are in similar circumstances. I don’t know that, but it’s certainly what we’re doing and hopefully, I believe we’ll get something done.

On the outlandish rookie pay scale for top 10 picks:

It is crazy. Now, I will say this, some of things getting publicized from those contracts aren’t exactly accurate either. There are some things in the media about Sam Bradford’s contract that are in the media as fact that just are not true … and a bunch of the other guys in the top five because that’s agents just trying to make their mark to get other players to come over. At the same time, we have a system. Football is a tough, tough game and while how you play it in college can be a predictor of what happens in the pros, unlike what’s going on in the other leagues, there’s much less of a correlation.

[We need to put] together a system that takes a lot of the disproportionate amount of money that the players in college are getting today just for being in the top five or 10 picks of the first round and redistributing that to the middle-tier veteran players who are performing and maybe starting to put more money into a pool that’s paid for performance. We have one today, but even a greater amount of money, so the guys who are not on a rookie deal and not at the top echelon of the league, if they go out and work hard and perform, they know that there is more money even on top of their contract and what they’re earning on the table. It’ll provide for a better content on the field and it’ll reward the players that are playing well.

A system like that makes a lot of sense than being lucky enough to just have a good senior year in college [or] play quarterback or to be a disruptive defensive lineman and get picked at the top of the draft, which in and of itself can be a fluke, too. I mean, you pick one or two picks later and it’s millions and millions and millions of dollars.

Look at JaMarcus Russell. It’s a travesty and what’s not right about it is a lot of people have worked hard to create the revenue and the system that allows JaMarcus to be drafted [first overall to Oakland] and now, not only has he hamstrung his team, but he’s sucked a huge amount of money out of the system that could have gone to pay guys who are busting their butts, who are taking this seriously and who perform well on the field. I do believe that the owners feel the money should go to the guys who are performing well and working hard. I got to believe the union at the end of the day because they’re going to go with the majority of things. I got to believe that the majority of guys don’t care about the upper echelon of contracts and they don’t care about the rookie deals.

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