Dec 10, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is seen prior to a game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots owner ‘excited’ for Tom Brady’s Week 4 return

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is ready to embrace an old friend when Tom Brady returns to Gillette Stadium in Week 4 of the upcoming NFL season.

“Excited to have him,” Kraft told TMZ Sports on Friday. “He’s a great guy, and he did so much for us. I love him.”

Kraft’s response came two days after the 2021 season schedule was released by the NFL.

While Kraft admittedly is excited to see Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 3, the Patriots have other games to address before facing their former quarterback.

“We should have a fun night!” Kraft said. “But I’m excited for Week 1 … and we play Miami.”

Brady, 43, captured three NFL MVP awards and six Super Bowl titles during his 20 seasons with the Patriots. He left in free agency in March 2020 and added another Super Bowl championship in his first campaign with the Buccaneers.

“It’s like when your high school friends meet your college friends,” Brady wrote on Twitter of the teams’ matchup.

Brady threw for 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns with the Buccaneers last season.

Conversely, the Patriots look to rebound after a 7-9 record last season resulted in missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Cam Newton, first-round draft pick Mac Jones out of Alabama and Jarrett Stidham are the team’s quarterbacks.

–Field Level Media

Dec 28, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft  on the field as his team warms up before the start of the game against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots’ Robert Kraft addresses free-agency binge, draft misfires

The New England Patriots were quite active during the NFL’s free agency period, spending a league-record $165 million in guaranteed money.

While the Patriots added tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith and wideouts Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, among others, Patriots owner Robert Kraft acknowledged Wednesday that being active in free agency isn’t the desired path toward long-term success.

“In the end, if you want to have a good, consistent, winning football team, you can’t do it in free agency,” Kraft said. “You have to do it through the draft because that’s when you’re able to get people of great talent, whether it’s Willie McGinest or Tom Brady. You get them at a price where you can build the team and be competitive. Once they get to their (second) contract, if they’re superstars, you can only balance so many of them.

“… Really, the teams who draft well are the ones who will be consistently good. I don’t feel like we’ve done the greatest job the last few years and I really hope and believe I’ve seen a different approach this year.”

The Patriots look to rebound after a 7-9 record last season resulted in the first time they missed the playoffs since 2008. They have 10 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, which kicks off on April 29. Barring a trade, their first pick will be No. 15.

As for New England’s recent top draft picks, well, judge for yourself.

In 2017, the Patriots selected defensive end Derek Rivers and offensive lineman Antonio Garcia in the third round. Both players are no longer with the team.

The following year’s first-round picks, offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn and running back Sony Michel, have produced inconsistent results. Wynn has started 18 games over the past two seasons while Michel rushed for 1,843 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first two campaigns before being limited to 449 yards and one score in 2020.

Wideout N’Keal Harry, the team’s first-round pick in 2019, has just 45 catches for 414 yards and four touchdowns in 21 games.

–Field Level Media

Jan 20, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) greets owner Robert Kraft in the locker room as they celebrate their win over the Kansas City Chiefs during overtime in the AFC Championship game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Pats owner Robert Kraft: ‘I’m rooting for Tom Brady’

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft wants his former franchise quarterback to win ring No. 7 on Sunday.

“I’m rooting for Tom Brady,” Kraft said in an interview to air Sunday on CBS.

Brady, who won six of his nine Super Bowl appearances with the Patriots, left in free agency last March after 20 seasons with New England. He signed a two-year, $50 million deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

On Sunday, the 43-year-old veteran leads the Bucs into a Super Bowl LV clash with the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs in Tampa.

“I’m so excited,” Kraft said. “We’ve had some great communications, and he is such a special human being. We were privileged to have him here for two decades, and he’s one of the finest human beings I’ve ever met. He knows how to lead, and I wish him well. I really hope he wins Sunday.”

Brady expressed his thanks for the “incredible support” he has received from the Patriots organization during his first season in Tampa.

–Field Level Media

Dec 10, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looks at different plays during the first half against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Belichick declines Presidential Medal of Freedom

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick announced Monday night that he will turn down an invitation to the White House to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Belichick explained his decision in a statement that did not mention President Donald Trump by name but alluded to the events of the past week, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Five people, including a police officer, died.

“Recently, I was offered the opportunity to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which I was flattered by out of respect for what the honor represents and admiration for prior recipients,” Belichick said. “Subsequently, the tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award. Above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for our nation’s values, freedom and democracy.

“I know I also represent my family and the New England Patriots team. One of the most rewarding things in my professional career took place in 2020 when, through the great leadership within our team, conversations about social justice, equality and human rights moved to the forefront and became actions. Continuing those efforts while remaining true to the people, team and country I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award.”

Trump has drawn support from Belichick, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and ex-Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in previous years. During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump boasted about a receiving a letter of support from Belichick.

Belichick said Trump ran a “tremendous campaign” and called the media “negative” and “slanted,” Trump said at the time.

According to Trump, Belichick wrote, “Hopefully tomorrow’s election results will give the opportunity to make America great again.”

The support was in line with the Patriots’ owner, whose Kraft Group reportedly donated $1 million to the Trump inaugural committee.

Trump recently reappointed Belichick to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition. The Patriots coach first was appointed in 2018.

Belichick holds NFL records among head coaches for most Super Bowl victories (six) and most Super Bowl appearances (nine).

–Field Level Media

Nov 3, 2019; Baltimore, MD, USA; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft
walks on the field before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Court rules videos inadmissible in Kraft case

Video footage that purportedly shows New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft engaging in an illegal sex act can’t be admitted as evidence against him, a Florida appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The prosecution had challenged a ruling by a lower court that the videos taken at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Fla., were inadmissible.

Kraft was one of 24 men charged with soliciting prostitution at the spa. Kraft has pleaded not guilty to two counts of soliciting, which allegedly occurred in January 2019.

“We find the trial courts properly concluded that the criminal defendants had standing to challenge the video surveillance and that total suppression of the video recordings was constitutionally warranted,” read the ruling from Florida’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal.

The court said that law enforcement didn’t have the right to film customers inside a business as part of an investigation.

“The act of video surveillance itself is perhaps the most intrusive form of electronic law enforcement spying,” the court said.

However, a judge had signed off on what’s known as a “sneak and peek” warrant to allow cameras to be installed secretly at the Florida day spa, which was under investigation for allegedly serving as a cover for prostitution.

The videos were the key pieces of evidence against Kraft, the 79-year-old billionaire who also owns the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer.

Kraft’s trial was postponed indefinitely in May to allow for the appeal to be heard.

Should prosecutors eventually decide to drop the charges, Kraft still could be subject to discipline from the NFL.

–Field Level Media

Nov 3, 2019; Baltimore, MD, USA; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft
walks on the field before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Court rules videos inadmissible in Kraft case

Video footage that purportedly shows New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft engaging in an illegal sex act can’t be admitted as evidence against him, a Florida appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The prosecution had challenged a ruling by a lower court that the videos taken at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Fla., were inadmissible.

Kraft was one of 24 men charged with soliciting prostitution at the spa. Kraft has pleaded not guilty to two counts of soliciting, which allegedly occurred in January 2019.

“We find the trial courts properly concluded that the criminal defendants had standing to challenge the video surveillance and that total suppression of the video recordings was constitutionally warranted,” read the ruling from Florida’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal.

The court said that law enforcement didn’t have the right to film customers inside a business as part of an investigation.

“The act of video surveillance itself is perhaps the most intrusive form of electronic law enforcement spying,” the court said.

However, a judge had signed off on what’s known as a “sneak and peek” warrant to allow cameras to be installed secretly at the Florida day spa, which was under investigation for allegedly serving as a cover for prostitution.

The videos were the key pieces of evidence against Kraft, the 79-year-old billionaire who also owns the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer.

Kraft’s trial was postponed indefinitely in May to allow for the appeal to be heard.

Should prosecutors eventually decide to drop the charges, Kraft still could be subject to discipline from the NFL.

–Field Level Media

Five Players/Owners in the AFC East Who Are Involved With New Sports

Rob Gronkowski – TE New England Patriots
Tom Brady’s favorite target plays Call of Duty the same way he plays on the football field: Aggressively.
“I like to run right up on you when I play,” Gronk told Jon Robinson at ESPN, “I’m the type of gamer who wants to grab the shotgun and go looking for you. It’s just not me, it’s not my personality, to sit back somewhere and wait for the action to happen. I’m out there making things happen.”
He did that interview back in 2012 during the Modern Warfare 3 era of COD. Back then he called the graphics amazing, saying “it feels like you’re out there in real life.”
Since Modern Warfare 3 there have been six COD titles with the next – Black Ops 4 – set to release in October. If Gronk thought the graphics were good back then, COD WWII probably blew his mind as it is by far the most realistic title to date.
Robert Kraft – Owner New England Patriots
Kraft is one of the most recognizable owners in the league and is also one of the few who have bought into esports in a big way. When Blizzard created the Overwatch League and opened spots for regional franchises, they put a $20 million price tag on each spot in the league.
In doing so, they priced out all but the largest of the endemic esports organizations and it’s clear Blizzard was focused on getting traditional sports owners to buy into esports.
It worked. The OWL attracted ownership groups led by Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov from the Sacramento Kings, Jeff Wilpon from the New York Mets, and Ed Snider from the Philadelphia Flyers. It also included NFL owners Stan Kroenke and Kraft whose Kraft Group bought into the league and named the team the Boston Uprising.
The Uprising was a middle of the pack team most of the year but went on a tear in Stage 3 when they went undefeated through ten games. On the back of that performance they made the first Overwatch League playoffs and will face off against Snider and the Philadelphia Fusion in the first round beginning on July 11th.

Kiko Alonso – LB Miami Dolphins
The former Duck star – as an Oregon graduate I am obligated to mention the university when I can, it’s in the student handbook – Alonso has made a name for himself as one of the best linebackers in the NFL, despite battling injuries and trades throughout his five years in the league.
He has been on three different teams going from the Bills to the Eagles in exchange for LeSean McCoy (more on him later) and then to the Dolphins for a first round pick. When moving around so much, it can be hard to bond with teammates but when arriving in Miami, Alonso used Call of Duty to mesh with fellow linebacker Jelani Jenkins.
“We’ve been playing some ‘Call of Duty,’ Jenkins told ESPN’s James Walker. “We’ve actually gone out to eat a little bit. He lives right near me. He lives by the beach. We just hang out. We have a lot of time off with this phase, so we get a chance to just kick it.”
It’s a team-building exercise that is popular around the league with players on every team playing Call of Duty and most playing with their teammates.
Teddy Bridgewater – QB New York Jets
When he joined the Minnesota Vikings, Bridgewater began studying the playbook immediately. He did so by playing Madden with the Vikings playbook which he imported into the game. It was a strategy he also employed while at Louisville, and it seemed to work out well for him there.
“I try to take as many reps as I can, whether it’s on a video game, playing Madden or in the playbook, just drawing it or just visualizing it in my head,” Bridgewater said to ESPN’s Ben Goessling in 2014. “I try to just maximize every rep I can get and every opportunity that I can take.”
As he was recovering from his nasty injury in 2016, the closest Bridgewater could get to actual reps was through Madden. At the very least it allowed him to keep testing routes and make sure his field vision was still on-point.
Considering it’s a strategy he employed through his last two stops, he has likely already imported the Jets playbook into his game and is working through the new offense. He showed flashes of brilliance through his first two seasons in the NFL but now will join a crowded QB competition with Josh McCown and top pick Sam Darnold for the starting position in New York.
LeSean McCoy – RB Buffalo Bills
Even though Shady called out Kiko Alonso on Instagram after the two were swapped in a trade, they do share a commonality in bonding with their teammates over Call of Duty.
“[When I was the Eagles] we will all just link up, we call things out in game and that’s your teammate so you kinda bond with them while you play the game,” McCoy told The Post Game in this video.
McCoy was facing off against Bengals WR AJ Green in a Call of Duty: Ghosts grudge match during that video. They also faced off in Madden, which Shady won.
“I’ve been a fan [of COD] for so long. I’m not a big game guy but I get up for Call of Duty. Wherever I go I gotta have Call of Duty tucked away,” McCoy said in the video. “Madden update I beat [Green] so now I gotta figure I’ll beat him in COD.”
McCoy won the grudge match with a score of 4-1 but Green wasn’t taking the L sitting down.
“You cheating mayne, you been watching my screen,” Green said to McCoy, jokingly.
Anybody who has played video games against their friends knows the arguments screen-peeking can cause, and it’s true for these guys as well, they just happen to also have 13 combined pro bowls.
This is the sixth article in a series looking at the overlap of the NFL and esports. All the NFC divisions and the AFC West can be found here.