Pats owner Kraft makes strong defense of team

Kraft said he's bothered reputations of Brady, Belichick called into question

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft reads a statement during a news conference Monday, Jan. 26, 2015, in Chandler, Ariz. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

CHANDLER, Ariz. (AP) — New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft demanded an apology from the league once the Patriots are found to be not guilty of breaking any rules regarding using under-inflated footballs in the AFC championship game.

In an unscheduled statement, Kraft strongly defended his team’s actions and integrity Monday night.

“I believe unconditionally that the New England Patriots did nothing wrong in this process that was in violation of NFL rules,” Kraft said at the team’s first media availability in Arizona.

“If the (Ted) Wells investigation is not able to definitively determine that our organization tampered with the air pressure in the footballs, I would expect and hope the league would apologize to our entire team, and in particular to coach (Bill) Belichick and Tom Brady, for what they’ve had to endure this week,” Kraft added, at times sounding angry.

“I’m disappointed in the way this entire matter has been handled and reported upon. We expect hard facts rather than circumstantial leaked evidence to drive the conclusion of this investigation.”

Kraft also said it “bothers me greatly” that the reputations and integrity of Belichick and Brady have been “called into question, and by association our team.”

He added that in 15 years together with Belichick and Brady, they had never lied to him.

The NFL has said evidence shows the Patriots used underinflated footballs during the first half of the AFC title game victory over Indianapolis. The league is still determining why the balls were underinflated.

NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash and Ted Wells of the law firm of Paul Weiss are leading the probe. Wells was the investigator in the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal.

Belichick and Brady followed Kraft to the podium, but basically left any comments on the investigation to their boss.

When asked if he was upset by the accusations and jokes of which he was the subject, Brady said: “I’ve moved past those initial feelings and I want to move forward.”

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