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Jonathan Kraft on D&C: ‘I’ve never heard Bill [Belichick] say a bad word about Wes [Welker]‘

11.22.13 at 9:54 am ET
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Patriots president Jonathan Kraft checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to talk about Sunday night’s showdown with the AFC-leading Broncos and other Patriots news.

The game marks the return of former Patriot Wes Welker, who is expected to play after suffering a concussion in Denver’s last game. Kraft said he has a special place in his heart for Welker, who played six incredibly productive seasons in Foxboro.

“How do you not, as a football fan, forget just being a Patriots fan, how do you not have huge admiration for Wes?” Kraft said. “The thing I always say about him, aside from the fact he’s a wonderful guy that I’ve had the privilege of knowing, when I stand next to him — and I’m no physical specimen — there’s really not a lot of difference in terms of what you look at when the two of us are standing next to each other. And then you watch him step on a football field and do what he does, it’s indescribable. If you love the game and you appreciate what the game is, and then you look at him and you look at what he was given in terms of just the basic physical attributes, and then you watch what he does, you have to be in awe of him. And I am in awe of him.

“Unfortunately, I watch him in a different color uniform and I’m still in awe of him and what he does on the football field. It’s exceptional and amazing.”

Welker departed the Patriots under mysterious circumstances, as New England did not appear to try its hardest to sign Tom Brady‘s favorite receiver. Kraft said he has no reason to believe it was anything personal between Welker and Bill Belichick.

“I don’t believe that’s the case,” Kraft said. “I’ve seen no sign of that from Bill. ‘€¦ Bill, when he’s building a team, leave emotion out of it completely. He truly does what he feels is in the best interest of the team. And he has a dollar value in mind and structures that can work for different people. And regardless of how he feels about you personally, not as a football player, because I know as a football player he has the utmost for Wes, a huge amount of respect, not just for physical toughness that he has, but Wes gets the game of football. He’s incredibly intelligent. You saw him walk in here in 2007 and instantly get our offense and get on the same wavelength with Tommy. And I think Bill values those things highly.

“I’ve never heard Bill say a bad word about Wes. And even if he did have emotions about him as a person — and I have no reason to believe that he does — that are the way [the WEEI hosts] are describing, I don’t believe he would let that impact a decision that was good for the football team.”

Belichick famously held Welker out of the starting lineup in the Patriots’ playoff loss to the Jets in January 2011 after Welker tweaked New York coach Rex Ryan in a press conference leading up to the game. Kraft said he does not question Belichick’s decisions on matters such as that — at least not professionally.

“You’ve got to have confidence in your head coach, and you have to let him do what he thinks is right. Bill has the ability to do that,” Kraft said. “As a fan, you can sit back and question anything. That’s why all of sports are fun to watch, but I don’t think anything is more fun to watch and follow than football, because there’s so much to discuss. There are more players, there are more situations, each play is scripted.

“You have those discussions, and I understand the question, but I would never question Bill’s ability to make the right decision. Is every decision he makes right? Obviously not. No one’s perfect. But to sit back and question what he’s doing isn’t something that I do, isn’t something that anyone up here does. His track record speaks for itself. That doesn’t mean that as a fan you don’t sit there and say things, but he know what he’s doing.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

On the controversial ending to Monday night’s loss to the Panthers and if he discussed it with the league: “Those communications would happen between Bill and the league. I was at a league meeting, I was sitting a seat away from the commissioner for a couple hours on Wednesday ‘€¦ and you’re tempted to say something. But that’s really the type of thing that gets taken care of between coaches and Dean Blandino, the head of officiating. And I think there’s a lot of communication that goes on after games and after situations like that, where you get a more detailed understanding of what happened, whether it was correct or not. ‘€¦

“I’m not saying whether the call was right or wrong, but I am saying that in those communications if they’ve made a mistake, they admit it. And if it was a gray area, they explain why it’s gray. And if they didn’t make a mistake and they were right, they tell you that, too. I think that’s a real positive thing. I think it helps the head coaches understand what’s happened better, and it also, because the refs get talked to, too, I think it makes the referees better.

“Clearly, I have my view of the quality of that call that night. ANd when you’re viewing it as a fan and you’re in the position, you’re not happy.”

On Tom Brady restructuring his contract last offseason: “What Tom did with his contract last year was a selfless statement that’s going to help the team and is also going to allow us to hopefully — not hopefully, will allow us for Tommy whenever he decides he’s not going to play anymore, to end his career as a Patriot, which is something that’s very important, too. You’ve seen discussions these last weeks around Ben Roethlisberger — and I’m in no way saying Roethlisberger is in Tommy’s level as a quarterback, ’cause I just don’t believe he is. I believe Tommy is as good as ever played the game, I believe he’s the best ever. But you’re seeing a situation there now where the fact that he’s going to have a huge cap number because of restructures that are coming out, and I think you’re starting to see negotiating and posturing ‘€¦ and that’s going to be a difficult issue.”

On Rob Gronkowski: “What you see as his public persona in some of those instances gets an awful lot of attention. Obviously, you’d prefer he get the attention for what he does on the football field and how hard he works. What I can tell you is, the first and foremost thing we want with our players, assuming they’re good people, is that they’re passionate about football. Rob is in here constantly, constantly, working to be a better football player. When he’s not in the building, clearly he isn’t sitting at home on his couch all the time; he’s out enjoying himself. But I can tell you, he takes being a football player incredibly seriously.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady, Wes Welker
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