AP Photo/NFL via APPatriots' owner Robert Kraft accepted his franchise's punishment for the Deflategate scandal Tuesday at the owners' meeting in San Francisco.

Spander: Kraft, Patriots take one for the league

Deflategate is over, deflated. Robert Kraft fell on his sword, capitulating for the good of what matters most, the league.

Some called Kraft the new Al Davis, but Davis never would have conceded in this fight. Davis never would concede in anything — football, lawsuits, you name it, especially when it came to a joust with the NFL.

What they ought to call Kraft is savior. The status quo remains the status quo. America is safe. A touchdown still is six points.

Kraft hated what the NFL did to his team, the Patriots, assigning blame for footballs reduced in air pressure, deflated if you will, assessing a $1 million fine, taking away a first-round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth-round pick in 2017 and suspending his great quarterback, Tom Brady, the first four games of the 2015 season.

It was the harshest punishment ever slapped on any NFL team, much less a Super Bowl champion, and Kraft, who has served as a mentor to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and is on five league business committees, was properly livid.

“Inferences from ambiguous references,” Kraft said of the report which told how a part-time equipment man let air out of balls after an official had checked them. Now Kraft let the air out of the balloon. Whoosh. There goes all the excitement.

Brady threw soft footballs. Kraft threw in the towel.

The big boys who run the NFL got their wish. They don't want infighting, don't want laundry, dirty or clean, of a multibillion dollar organization being whipped around by the breeze.

The NFL is America's only kingdom. It must be handled with care. Didn't 49ers owner John York say “the most important thing is the integrity of the league?”

The integrity of the league. We have sworn to love and protect this entity of a cash cow, this patron saint of Nielsen Ratings. All for one and one for all the TV revenue available under the last contract.

The NFL is the giant steamroller, squashing everything and everyone in its path. You are reminded of a Tolstoy description of the Russian Army: Once underway it keeps moving no matter if anyone's in control.

The NFL also is the unstoppable force. Right and wrong are insignificant. Robert Kraft had no choice but to get out of the way.

Kraft came to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel high atop San Francisco's Nob Hill, where the league is holding its spring meeting and — no, not hat in hand since he doesn't wear a heat — Tuesday morning announced the Patriots would not appeal.

“Although I might disagree what is decided,” said Kraft, “I do have respect for (commissioner Roger Goodell) and believe that he's doing what he perceived to be in the best interest of [all 32 teams]. So in that spirit, I don't want to continue the rhetoric that's gone on for the last four months.”

Stories of Brady throwing deflated footballs came out immediately after New England beat the Indianapolis Colts, 45-7, in the AFC Championship game in January, and, obviously have not disappeared. Nor will they disappear even with Kraft's concession but they will ebb.

“I'm going to accept, reluctantly, what he has given us,” said Kraft of Goodell, “and not continue this dialogue and rhetoric.”

So we can go back debating whether the Raiders will join the Rams in moving back to Los Angeles — yes, no, yes, no, phew — or how many coaches will go for two points after a TD now that going for one is going to be a trifle more difficult — but only a trifle.

One wonders if Kraft's decision, sure to be favored by fellow owners as well as Mr. Goodell, will prove helpful in Brady's appeal of his suspension. Does the commish show appreciation and lop a couple of days off the QB's ban?

Then again the Patriots have been judged by the NFL to have cheated before, the first time Videogate, when team officials conceded to illegal taping of New York Jets practices. That also cost them draft picks.

Still, the Pats keep doing the only thing that matters in pro sports, winning championships. Taking what amounts to slaps on the wrist, or the wallet, doesn't compare to taking home a trophy.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.bleacherreport.com. Email him at typoes@aol.com.

Al DavisArt SpanderNew England PatriotsRobert Kraft

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