FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Robert Kraft spent 80 seconds Wednesday making his first public remarks since saying eight days earlier he wouldn’t appeal the Patriots’ punishment for using underinflated footballs.
Not one of those seconds was devoted to the scandal.
At a ceremony introducing New England’s first-round draft choice, the team’s owner stood on a platform in the middle of the field where Tom Brady played with those footballs. Those ceremonies have been an annual tradition since Kraft’s first year with the team in 1994.
“It’s our privilege of introducing to you all our 22nd first-rounder,” Kraft told reporters.
With defensive tackle Malcom Brown of Texas standing between Kraft and club president Jonathan Kraft, the three posed while holding up a No. 1 jersey. Then the Krafts turned away and walked off the field, as they usually do after opening such events, and left Brown to answer questions.
Brown spoke repeatedly about working hard. There were two questions related to Brady and the scandal which led to the quarterback’s suspension for the first four games of the 2015 season, pending an appeal that already has been filed.
Asked if he received advice about dealing with the media since the Wells Report commissioned by the NFL was issued May 6 and the NFL punished the Patriots and Brady on May 11, Brown said, “I really haven’t been focusing toward that. … I’m just here to work.”
Asked if Brady talked with Brown about his remark on draft night that he would be the best draft choice in Patriots history, he said his new teammates haven’t ribbed him about that.
“I actually just walked up to Tom and shook his hand and we just went to our workout,” Brown said.
Kraft said on May 19 he wanted to end the “dialogue and rhetoric” and would not oppose the $1 million fine and loss of two draft choices the NFL penalized the team for its role in using underinflated footballs in the AFC championship game.
Brown’s formal introduction came one day after defensive end Willie McGinest, the first player drafted by the team under Kraft’s ownership, was selected for the Patriots Hall of Fame.
“I think back to 21 years ago with Willie McGinest,” said Kraft, who turns 74 on June 5. “It got me thinking. I hope I’m around 21 years from now and having the same privilege of introducing you, Malcom” as a team Hall of Famer.
Brown is part of a youth movement at defensive tackle, where the Patriots drafted Dominique Easley out of Florida with the 29th pick in the first round last year. Brown was taken with the 32nd.
On March 10, the Patriots let 11-year veteran Vince Wilfork become a free agent. Six days later, the five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle signed with the Houston Texans.
“I haven’t thought about replacing anyone,” Brown said. “I’m just here to work.”
He’s met his teammates and worked with them on the field.
“Everybody’s contributing to me learning,” Brown said, “everybody on defense — linebackers, safeties.”
Being married with two children gives him extra motivation because he has to support them.
“Family is a real important thing to me because I believe families should stick together,” he said
Now he’s part of a family with stars such as Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski. He said he wasn’t awe-struck when he met them.
“I can’t be a good teammate if I’m focused on this and that,” Brown said. “I just go ahead to work and use their work ethics to help mine.”
He is impressed with the Krafts.
“It’s just great being around those guys. They sign your paycheck, so it’s fun,” Brown said. “It’s nice to have someone like that, not just stuck up in an office and won’t talk to you. They’re guys who will just sit there and talk to you.”
Except when the talk is about deflated footballs.
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