- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady having his four-game suspension vacated by U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman on Thursday, the question has been asked: Will owner Robert Kraft look to recoup the draft picks stripped by the NFL (2016 first-rounder, 2017 fourth-rounder)?
In an answer that won't appease the team's fans, the answer is that it's highly unlikely Kraft will do so.
Kraft's thinking in accepting the league's penalties (while never acknowledging guilt in doing so) was that it would give Brady the best chance to have his suspension overturned by the NFL. He was extending an olive branch to the league office. Kraft miscalculated on that front, as he later publicly acknowledged when he said, "I was wrong to put my faith in the league." The NFL's leadership -- specifically commissioner Roger Goodell, general counsel Jeff Pash and executive vice president Troy Vincent -- disappointed him by taking that olive branch and brazenly snapping it in half.
But there was another reason Kraft accepted the penalties, and it was business-related. Those business-based factors haven't changed with Berman's ruling.
Kraft is one of the NFL's most influential owners, someone who moves business along in a variety of ways. Thursday, for example, I was told that he was meeting with NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman at Gillette Stadium on undisclosed league-based matters. (Grubman is, among other things, a key figure in relocation plans regarding a team for Los Angeles.)
Kraft's leadership position in league business-based matters is important to him, even as some fellow owners (such as Houston's Bob McNair) have opposed him at various points of the Deflategate process. Kraft is the type who, as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones alluded to, sometimes will approach a fellow owner and highlight how there are times when thinking from an NFL point of view trumps a team-specific view. Jones hinted that that's what happened when the Cowboys reluctantly accepted the NFL's sanctions in 2012 for violating the salary cap.
Said Jones: "I'm sitting there living with the result of the commissioner's decision still today that I didn't agree with when it happened ... and some of the very people sometimes that have the biggest complaints, they're the ones who give you a phone call and say, 'Hey, let's be a team player now and let's all get in here and realize that this happens to everybody and let's go on and compete. We've got a great league and a great game.'"
Kraft views the long-term business-based health of the NFL as one of the more important things to him, which makes it unlikely that he will compromise his standing in that area with his fellow owners by going after the league to recoup draft picks and the fine. In fact, his words could now carry even more weight as he can say: "Look what I did. I accepted an unprecedented penalty for an alleged ball violation -- one of the most overblown stories in recent history -- because I was thinking of the league first."
That course of action naturally won't sit well with Patriots followers who have strongly voiced their displeasure over Kraft accepting the NFL's penalties.
In that sense, it puts Kraft in a tough spot.
Kraft often talks about how he's still a fan at heart, a longtime season-ticket holder turned owner. That's true.
But he's also a businessman, an incredibly shrewd one who sometimes has to walk the tightrope between the interests of the NFL and his own team.
Because of these factors, among others, it's highly unlikely he will go after the NFL to recoup the draft picks and fine.