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Robert Kraft Slams ESPN Article On Patriots' Rift As 'Fiction' In First Interview

FOXBORO (CBS) – In his first interview since an ESPN article claimed there is a major rift in the Patriots organization, Robert Kraft slammed the report as "fiction."

Kraft spoke with Peter King of Sports Illustrated, and said he never ordered Bill Belichick to trade Jimmy Garoppolo. The Patriots owner added that Seth Wickersham's story purporting Kraft and Belichick's lengthy meeting on the subject is "total fabrication and fiction."

Prior to the trade deadline when Garoppolo was dealt, the last time the owner had been involved in discussions about the backup quarterback was June, Kraft said.

"I assumed once the season started, we'd talk again at the end of the season about it. The next time I spoke with Bill about it was the Monday before the trade deadline," Kraft told Sports Illustrated, adding "Bill asked me if I was OK with this. I was really taken aback a little bit. I wanted to think about it. I talked to Jonathan, who was okay with it, and I called Bill back and said, 'OK.'"

On Friday, Kraft, Belichick and Tom Brady issued a joint statement slamming the report as inaccurate.

Wickersham told King on Saturday "I absolutely stand by my story," which he worked on for about two months.

A report Friday out of New York indicated that Belichick was eyeing a possible return to the Giants sideline.

When asked if Belichick will be coaching the Patriots in 2018, Kraft said "absolutely."

"When you're lucky enough to have someone exceptional, you let them do their job and you get out of the way," Kraft told Sports Illustrated.

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