Once again, it's on. This is civil war.
An enraged Robert Kraft reopened the door Wednesday morning to every NFL Armageddon scenario imaginable, right up to the eventual ouster of commissioner Roger Goodell. (See his full statement here.) Kraft's renewed disgust with the league's handling of Deflategate, and most recently its decision to uphold Tom Brady's four-game suspension, should put the entire industry on notice.
Consider: The New England Patriots are the NFL's second-most valuable team, worth an estimated $2.6 billion, according to Forbes magazine. Kraft is the chairman of the NFL's broadcast committee, arguably the most important in the sport, and he was among the most responsible for Goodell's ascension to commissioner in 2006. Now, here we are with Kraft using words such as "unfathomable" to describe the league's actions. He is openly accusing the league of trying to capture headlines while obscuring its lack of hard evidence.
To be clear, Kraft's reaction is unprecedented in modern NFL history.
It's true that the late Al Davis subverted league rule at every opportunity during his time as the Oakland Raiders' managing partner, but he did so with the full understanding that he was a counterculture rebel whose opinions were never taken seriously. Within league circles, Kraft has never been Al Davis. His opposition here is understandable from a standpoint of loyalty but also counter to the one-for-all ethos that the league and its owners expect from one another.
You can argue the significance of football inflation all you want. Reasonable people can debate the extent of culpability for both the Patriots and Brady. What is indisputable, however, is that one of the league's most powerful owners, and one of its marquee franchises, is in open public rebellion for the first time that anyone can remember.
Kraft now regrets his decision to give up this fight in the spring, and it's unlikely he'll back down again any time soon. This dispute has turned into a full-fledged internal war.
Hang on. Anything could happen.