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Robert Kraft: Myra was ‘the real deal’

08.10.11 at 4:35 pm ET

FOXBORO — Robert Kraft is still grieving, as was made very clear as the Patriots owner struggled through a 20-minute session with the media at Gillette Stadium Wednesday afternoon. Wearing an “MHK” pin similar to the patch players will wear this season to remember the late Myra Kraft, the 70-year-old Kraft had to stop himself several times as he wept over the loss of his wife of 48 years.

“I hope they’re good luck charms,” Kraft said of the pins. “There’s no one dearer to me, so I’ll be wearing it all the time.”

Kraft was asked several times about how he’ll sit in the owner’s box during games without his wife in her usual seat, and how she’ll be remembered. Kraft repeatedly noted that he’d been blessed with a great family who will help him through it (“She gave me great sons and grandkids and a lot of good friends”), though he was often choked up as he reflected on his wife’s life.

‘€œShe wasn’€™t looking for anything,” Kraft said of his philanthropic wife. “She was the real deal. ‘€¦ I’€™m a very lucky guy. Very lucky. We love this community and we’€™re going to continue to do everything we can to build upon it and do things that would make her proud.’€

So far, Myra should be very proud. Her husband said Wednesday that since she died of cancer on July 20, the Myra Kraft Giving Back Fund has raised over $3 million, most of which the Patriots owner noted has come in the form of small contributions of $10 and $20 from regular citizens.

Said Kraft: “It plants the seed for her legacy of giving back to communities ‘€¦ and do things that are going to help this region and help people who want to volunteer and people in need for generations to come.”

For now, and after spending the final months of his wife’s life at the negotiating table trying to resolve the lockout, Kraft’s attention will slowly turn back to the field, where the Patriots will dedicate the 2011-12 season to Myra’s memory.

The patch, much like Kraft’s pin, will be worn on the left side of players’ jerseys, and the owner said Wednesday that if they can channel his wife’s spirit in any way, the team would be in good shape. In fact, he discussed it with an old friend prior to chatting with reporters.

“[Retired guard] Steve Neal just came to visit me,” Kraft said, as Neal has watched the last two practices. “He was up in the office and said, ‘€˜What are you doing to remember her?’€™ I said, ‘€˜Guys are going to be wearing a patch.’€™ He said, ‘€˜Wow, that’€™s cool, because that means we’€™re going to have one heck of a season, because if they have her energy and desire to win and ‘€” in a good way ‘€” kick butt where it matters, her spirit will hopefully come through.”

The longtime owner of the three-time Super Bowl Champions was praised by Colts center Jeff Saturday following the conclusion of the lockout as “a man who helped us save football,” but it wasn’t always easy for Kraft to be away from his ailing wife for the sake of the league. Even so, Kraft noted that it was with his wife’s blessing that he would leave her side to make sure football would be played this coming season.

‘€œThat’€™s the one thing I did for the last four-and-a-half months before Myra passed, and it was with her knowledge. She knew how important this game was to America, and so she gave me a pass,” Kraft said. “That was the only time I left her. We were focused in a way that was helping to do something with our team of people that is important to America. That was a good distraction, to be honest.’€

The emotional moment when Kraft and Saturday hugged served as a culmination of the long process of labor negotiations, and one in which the two gained an enormous amount of respect for one another. Given that he owns the Patriots, Kraft noted he was predisposed to rooting against a star Colts player, but that it was impossible to do when he really got to know Saturday.

“I got a letter from [Colts vice chairman] Bill Polian thanking me for what I did,” Kraft said Wednesday. He repeated Jeff’€™s words and I said, ‘€˜Without Jeff Saturday, there wouldn’€™t have been a deal.’€™ ‘€¦ His ability and perseverance ‘€” it’€™s hard to like the center for Peyton Manning, but I really like the guy. He’€™s terrific, and whoever hires him after football will be getting a great guy. He’€™s a solid, solid [guy]. ‘€¦ He is really intelligent and good. It was hard to like him, but I like him a lot.’€

The past several months couldn’t have been easy for the owner of the Pats, and that much was evident Wednesday. Yet as hard as things have been, Kraft can take solace that his wife will continued to be honored with philanthropic efforts still strong and football back on the field.

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