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Transcript of Jonathan Kraft on D&C: Albert Haynesworth understands ownership’s expectations

09.09.11 at 10:17 am ET
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Patriots president Jonathan Kraft joined the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning to talk about Monday’s season-opener, the NFL lockout and his father’s role in ending it, Peyton Manning‘s injury, the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and much more.

The Patriots’ signing of controversial defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth was seen by some as a departure from the team’s philosophy of staying away from players with checkered pasts. Kraft explained the team’s view.

“Before Albert was signed to the team, we sat down and talked to him,” Kraft said. “It was pretty clear that Albert, like some other players who maybe have had a similar spotlight shone on them when they’ve signed here — like Randy [Moss] or Corey [Dillon] or maybe even Bryan Cox — I think when you sit and talk to Albert, what you hear is an intense frustration of a man.

“Football’s a very hard game to play. When you’re intelligent — and Albert’s very intelligent and he understands everything you’re doing to play the game — and you’re not in situations where you have a real opportunity, or where he perceived there to be a real lack of commitment to winning, you get frustrated. I think that plays out in different ways with all types of people, some of which might be appropriate, some of which might not be.

“But the biggest thing Albert said was, ‘I love to play football and I want to win.’ And much like the other players I mentioned, when we traded for him was willing to restructure his contract. And effectively, he controlled where he went, because he wasn’t going to restructure with other people, much like Randy wasn’t, much like Corey wasn’t. And he basically, and this was actions speaking louder than words, walked away from effectively guaranteed millions and millions and millions of dollars to come in and play for a base salary that’s a little bit over the minimum and a chance to earn more money if he’s on the field and performs.

“To us, those actions speak greatly about what someone’s intentions are. And since he’s been in the building, he is very well-liked in the locker room, he’s been a great teammate, and my limited experience with him has only been extremely positive.”

Kraft was asked if he, his father or Bill Belichick told Haynesworth what won’t be tolerated in Foxboro.

Said Kraft: “Bill has his own conversations, so I haven’t been privy to what Bill says one-on-one to those guys. But when Robert [Kraft] and I sit down with them, the first thing that gets said — and Robert said it very clearly in this case — is that when you’re a Patriot, you are carrying our family’s last name. And there are certain expectations that come with that that go well beyond what goes on on the football field and how you are as a football player. And if you don’t feel you can live up to that and honor that and respect that, then it’s probably better that we not move forward with this relationship.”

Asked if Haynesworth was told that he’s on a short leash, Kraft said not in those terms.

“We don’t get into specifics, and he’s a grown-up, so I don’t think what’s said to him is, ‘You’re on a short leash,’ ” Kraft said. “Again, I don’t know what Bill says to him, because that’s a conversation between player and coaches. At least in our organization, when that’s going on that’s the clear line of authority and how it works. But before someone walks in the door and is allowed to join the team and have that relationship, they understand the higher definition that I just described. And I wouldn’t say we go down a list item by item of what’s expected. But I think Albert’s smart, a very smart man, and I think he understood the general theme of the conversation and very readily accepted it.”

Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

What is your recollection of that day almost 10 years ago?

I was in my office in downtown Boston at the time and I had CNBC on and they had cut to images of the tower and I remember them saying, “Oh, it’s a little, probably a single-engine plane.” And you’re looking at it, and it doesn’t seem right. And then all of a sudden you see the second one hit, and still no one gets it. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the Middle East, and I just remember thinking, “Oh, my God.”

The other thing is my mother had flown out of Boston that morning, and they started to say one of the planes that had hit was out of Boston. And she was actually on her way to New York. They didn’t know that it was a plane going to LA at first, so you were worried about that. My mother was in New York, my dad had a driver he used a lot that there. I think the guy actually left his fare and went and got my mother and drove her back.

It was a horrific day and hopefully something that obviously we never, ever have to face again.

What are we expecting to see as far as remembrances, commemoration on Sunday?

I think the league as a whole, at all of our game sites — we actually did it at the final preseason game with the Andruzzi brothers — but I think you’ll see moments of silence, the public safety workers in all of our communities and the military being honored as well. As well they should be, because while everybody gets real excited about football — and it’s exciting — one of the great things about being in the NFL is it gives us this national platform to shine the spotlight and attention on people and events that otherwise might not get all of the attention that they very rightfully deserve. So the league is definitely going to be doing that this weekend across the board.

Was there ever a point in the labor impasse that you thought opening weekend might be lost?

I don’t think so. I don’t want to be flip about that. In the early spring — you know, March, April, May, when all the rhetoric was flying — I think the end of the day you say there’s two rational parties on each side of the table here, and there’s an awful lot at stake, and nobody is being — it’s not like in other sports were one side or the other is truly dying. You would probably — instead of being at the 50, one side had moved to the 30, and it was time to just sort of re-look at the business. But there was enough there to do a deal.

So, you figured as long as there was rationality, there would be a deal. And then as we got into the summer, and it was right at the end of May/beginning of June when things started to heat up. And Robert obviously was critically involved, so I probably was fortunate enough to have a greater view than most people did. I think there was always a sense of confidence that the momentum was moving the right way.

That being said, if I was worried about anything, it was that Robert wasn’t going to be able to devote the time to it, because I think he really was a critical voice. I know I’m probably not objective in saying that, but both Roger [Goodell] and [DeMaurice Smith] have great relationships with him, and I think he was able to bridge the gap and be a translator and a communicator. And obviously his time was wasn’t plentiful. His time wasn’t plentiful, but fortunately the thing was able to get done.

What the one element of your team you’re most interested specifically to watch Monday night?

I think the front seven is probably going to be the most interesting thing from my perspective to watch. As I’m watching the game, it’s the thing I’m most curious to see in action. Because clearly we have a number of not necessarily new parts, but people doing new roles, and maybe some different schemes than we’ve had in the past, some younger players who have probably matured to a point now where they can be true leaders on the field. And obviously on the defensive line, guys like Albert, [Andre] Carter, [Shaun] Ellis — the front seven and how that intermingles and what it allows us to do. And clearly Bill has a lot of strong suits, but the front seven and manipulating them I think is right in his strike zone, to use a baseball term, and it will be fun to watch that.

How long do you think you’ll have this coach and quarterback together? And when you look around the league, do you feel fortunate to have them?

They are, in my estimation, each the best at what they do, and hopefully we have a situation where we’ve have them each for the long run. I fully believe that will be the case. Football’s a dynamic business. I heard you guys earlier this morning talking about Peyton, and you can go back a couple of years and talk about [Tony] Dungy as well, because that looked like a pretty great pairing. Then Tony decides at some point the family, he wants to spend time with them, and that’s understood.

And in the case with Peyton — and I was actually with Peyton at the end of June for a day down at his passing camp where my son was, and we were talking a little. He was just itching to get back to football. It was obvious what a competitor he is, and you would think he would be going on indefinitely from that time and point in his career. Then you hear the news today.

So, it’s a business where you hope you have that stability for the long run, and we been blessed to have it. But a lot of things out of your control can affect it. That being said, I have no reason to believe there’s going to be change anytime soon.

Don’t you ask Bill ever, “How long are you going to do this?”

You’ve asked Bill questions. I’s not necessarily any different internally when you get the answers. But I think Bill really enjoys what he’s doing. And if you watch him moving in the building, being with the players, he’s in the zone. And I think he gets driven and energized by it. Bill is 59, about to be 60, but he acts 15 years younger than that. He has an amazing intellect and energy, and I have no reason to believe he’s going anywhere anytime soon.

Does any part of you feel sorry for the Colts, having lost their triggerman for maybe the entire season?

I don’t know that I feel sorry for the Colts, but I feel sorry for football. I think part of what makes this league great are people like Peyton. It’s hard to explain, but I think he is part of the discussion each week. He’s a big part of fantasy. He’s been a major player in the league. He’s what drives business in the NFL.

And when we play the Colts, you want to play Peyton Manning. I know that sounds crazy, I know that it does. But there’s something about the competition of it. And I love seeing Tom [Brady] play Peyton. And obviously, I love seeing Tom win those battles when we win them. And there’ll be something a little hollow if we play them and he’s not playing and we’re fortunate enough to win. Look, you want to win and you take the competitive advantage, but I think overall I feel sorry for the NFL and fans of the NFL. And on a personal level, I like Peyton and I hope things get better with him quickly.

Going forward, based on what you accomplished in the past, it’s now about, to satisfy the fan base, postseason wins — fair to say?

It’s not just the fan base, it’s us as well. You are 100 percent right. I think everybody in the building is driven by that. All a great regular season does, at 14-2, is give you a scheduling advantage going into the playoffs. But you’ve got to be geared up and ready to go. The record is 0-0 when the playoffs start, Bill likes to say it. And hopefully after the last couple of seasons, if were fortunate enough to get to the playoffs — if, and that’s a long way from now — I’d like to believe that we would have an edge that is greatly understood by the vast majority of the guys in the locker room, that a 14-2 record or a 16-0 record or a 10-6 record means nothing unless you go out and start winning the games after that first week in January.

A guy from Miami is picking the Dolphins because they have an edge, they’ve circled the wagons and they’re hungry. I get the sense no one has more of a hunger, more of an edge right now than Brady and company after three straight postseason losses. Maybe that doesn’t show itself until the postseason. But do you get the sense you guys have got a little edge, a little attitude going into the season, because no one is expecting you to roll anymore?

I think there’s an edge because the season’s starting and because we didn’t like the way our season ended last year. The guy in Miami — I assume it was a writer or reporter or something — it’s somebody who’s probably around the team. And that just means Miami is up and focused, too. I think were ready to play football. The divisional games are always extremely tough, and Miami in particular for us on the road, I don’t know the statistics, but I think over the last 10 years has probably been — well Buffalo, maybe, we’ve done all right at on the road — but Miami has been a tough place for us to play.

Early in the season I’m glad were playing at night and not when the sun’s out. That’s a home-field advantage that they have that you have to battle through. I’m sure it will be a good game. Hopefully the man’s hunch is wrong and hopefully we come out of there 1-0 with a division win.

Is this season destined for you and your dad to be a melancholy one because of your family’s loss [of Myra Kraft] — at least tinged with melancholy?

I don’t know that it’s the football season, I think our lives in general. I feel it every day. I know my dad and my brothers do as well. We’re a close family, and my mother was the matriarch of it, but she was very integrated into all our lives and everything we did. So, football is just a tiny piece of it. We feel the loss every day.

I thank you, though, you’ve given me the chance to say to the fans that the outpouring of support for our family has just been tremendous. It’s meant a lot. Reading the cards and notes has been incredibly uplifting for all of us, and my dad in particular.

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Bill Belichick, Jonathan Kraft, Myra Kraft
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