By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- With Tom Brady's DeflateGate suspension (and the whole controversy altogether) in the rearview mirror, the greatest possible revenge that the Patriots could exact on the NFL is to force commissioner Roger Goodell to hand over the Lombardi Trophy to Robert Kraft after Super Bowl LI.
Kraft has largely remained silent since accepting the team's sizable DeflateGate punishment and expressing his disappointment in the NFL's penalty for Brady. But the Patriots owner opened up on the debacle in an expansive new interview with the New York Times that illustrated his distaste for the way the NFL handled the matter. He also explained his reasoning for ultimately accepting the punishment levied against the team, a decision that irked many Patriots fans.
"Sometimes, the league really messes up, and I think they really messed this up badly," said Kraft. "But we've all agreed to subjugate our right to disrupt everything ... I mean, we can, but we're a partnership. There's jealousy, there's envy, there's stupidity. Sometimes, life is unfair, and you have to suck it up and move on and not use it as an excuse."
The passage in the article that is likely to make headlines on political sections of news websites, of course, is Kraft's showing of support for President-elect Donald Trump, despite being noted as a longtime donor to the Democratic Party.
"Loyalty is important to me, and [Trump] has been a wonderful friend," he said. "I think one of the great problems in the country today is the working poor, the middle class, that there hasn't been growth in income on an equal basis, and I really think the policies he's going to bring to bear are going to be great for the economic side of America."
The Patriots may not have a "Trump problem" just yet, to reference a controversial recent article about the team. But these comments could prove a stronger litmus test than anything else that's happened thus far.
The main focus of the article, however, was on Kraft's loyalty to the Patriots and the strength of the NFL above all else. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is also quoted in the piece, illustrating how much influence Kraft still holds among the league's 32 owners, despite recent disputes - which is ultimately a good thing for the Patriots.
"We do have dissent and do have things I think you couldn't help but have," said Jones. "I think Bob has exhibited disagreement, but he's also very capable of making and influencing change. I'm someone, if he has ideas, I would certainly be a good listener."
The article generally portrays Kraft as a great unifier, one of the pillars that has held the Patriots organization together and kept them so successful for the past 15-plus seasons. Of course, having Brady (whose portrait hangs on Kraft's office wall) and Bill Belichick certainly helps, but Kraft has done as good a job as any owner in the league at letting them do what they do with minimal interference in football operations.
"My job is to keep everyone together, strong big egos, and keep the peace in the family," he said.
He's certainly done that, both within the Patriots and with his relationship with the league. But that desire for vengeance still looms, and the only way to satisfy that hunger will be to get that fifth ring.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at email@example.com.
for more features.