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Kraft, Goodell could settle Deflategate issues

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The Sports Xchange

Patriots owner Robert Kraft and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell are party to discussions geared toward resolving “issues with punishment” handed down as a result of Ted Wells’ investigation into New England game day employees intentionally deflating game-used footballs.

Based on multiple reports the talks began over the weekend. ESPN reported Goodell and Kraft embraced and had a long chat at a party Saturday night for a CBS television executive. Kraft is a chairperson of the league’s broadcast committee.

Earlier Saturday, Kraft made highly critical comments in a telephone interview with Peter King of Sports Illustrated, who published a story detailing Kraft’s take on the NFL punishment that followed Wells investigation. Kraft summed up the penalties, which include a four-game suspension for quarterback Tom Brady and forfeiture of two draft picks, as “not fair.”

Goodell and Kraft are aligned again Tuesday, when the NFL owners’ meetings open in San Francisco.

With key business to discuss involving other off-the-field matters, including the future of football in Los Angeles and the three teams tied to that city – St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers – Deflategate is not expected to be discussed as an agenda item.

Goodell is scheduled to hear Brady’s appeal. He appointed Troy Vincent to render punishment initially and under terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement – hailed as a victory by Kraft at the end of the 2011 lockout – is granted final authority in all disciplinary matters. Goodell said his friendship with Kraft could not be a factor when in January he was pressed on the reasons for going forward with the Wells investigation.

Goodell, before a crowded media assembly two days before the Super Bowl in Phoenix, called the matter a serious one that challenged the integrity of the game.

Whether the two men are nearing agreement on alterations to the initial punishment announced by Vincent is uncertain and, how it might impact future team-centric penalties unknown. Goodell’s biggest disciplinary ruling involving a team previous to Deflategate was the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal that led to the suspensions of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, alleged to be the kingpin of the pay-for-punishment rewards system, and head coach Sean Payton. Payton was “aware of violations” the league said after reviewing in-house email messages.

Whether Brady will be hooked based on text messages between locker room attendant Jim McNally and assistant John Jastremski that imply untoward practices involving game balls could come down to access to any communication Brady or other coaches had with the equipment staff.

Brady proclaimed innocence and colored the distraction as ridiculous before, during and after the Patriots run to the Super Bowl.


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