By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
HOUSTON (CBS) -- DeflateGate is over. Almost.
Though Tom Brady's four-game suspension has been served, the Patriots' first-round pick has been stripped and the team's $1 million fine has been paid, the saga has not yet been completed. For one, there's still a fourth-round pick to be taken away from the Patriots in the upcoming 2017 NFL draft. But in a more pressing issue, there is the little matter of this Super Bowl that's about to be played on Sunday evening against the Atlanta Falcons.
While a championship will not replenish those lost draft picks nor change people's mind when it comes to their own personal theories about illicit deflation of footballs, it would deliver a certain level of vengeance for a franchise which incontrovertibly faced excessive punishment for a violation which the NFL itself eventually stopped even trying to claim actually happened.
They delivered once two years ago. They have a chance this week to deliver once more.
Notably, this year's Super Bowl has been controversy-free compared to the Patriots' previous trip to the biggest game in American sports. Last time, shortly after the Patriots stepped off their plane in Arizona, team owner Robert Kraft strode confidently to the podium at the team hotel and demanded an eventual apology from Roger Goodell and the NFL office.
On Monday night, on the carpeted baseball diamond of Minute Maid Park, Kraft was asked about what went into his decision to make that bold statement against the league.
"Well, everyone wants to protect their family," Kraft said. "I think our family was involved -- or, accused of being involved -- with something that was mishandled and inappropriate and it became a big distraction. Leadership is about stepping up when it's the appropriate time, and then making sure that everyone knows that we're all on the same page.
"Sometimes in complicated situations in a business, people start pointing fingers, and we want[ed] to assure everyone that we're all together," Kraft said. "You know, when tough times come -- actually there's something in the Old Testament, where it [says] there's nothing bad that happens that doesn't have good associated with it, if you manage it properly. And I think in a way that galvanized our whole team."
Of course, three months later, Kraft dropped the fight, and accepted the punishments issued by the league. While those two disparate acts would seem to represent two different philosophies, Kraft's explanation showed that one idea can be right at one time while another can be correct at another time.
As head coach Bill Belichick would put it, Kraft was doing whatever was best for the team.
Given the results of now having a second Super Bowl trip in three years -- with a two-point AFC title game loss sandwiched between -- along with a hyper-motivated 39-year-old quarterback and a team that really rallied together in that quarterback's absence to start the season, the man has got reason to feel correct.
"We're really pleased we're able to get to this game," Kraft said. "It's sort of been a peaceful year, and we hope we have the privilege of winning on Sunday."
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