Patriots Notebook 6/18/12: Robert Kraft, Rob Gronkowski, Joe Andruzzi

The Greatest Owner In Pro Sports. Period.

The 2011 NFL season was quite a roller coaster ride for Patriots owner Robert Kraft. He had tragedy strike his life when he lost his long time wife Myra Hyatt Kraft to cancer back on June 20. But even through all of the hurt and heartache he was going through, he wasn't going to ignore the next biggest crisis in his life. The NFL Lockout.

Through all of the pain and heartache, Kraft was able to pull the players and owners together and was the driving force behind the two sides striking a collective bargaining agreement. Not to mention, he helped drive his New England Patriots back into the Super Bowl for the first time in four years.

He touched the lives of so many people around the country with his courage and perseverance last season, and was recognized for his actions on Monday.

The Pro Football Writers of America today named the Patriots owner the recipient of the 2012 George Halas Award. Kraft beat out Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, and Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. He became the first NFL owner to win the award, and deservedly so.

The Halas Award is given to a NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed. The award is named for Halas, a charter member (1963) of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, who was associated with the Chicago Bears and NFL from their inception in 1920 until his death in 1983 as an owner, manager, player and promoter. Halas won 324 games and six NFL titles in 40 seasons as a coach.

While Kraft's wife was battling cancer during the spring and summer of 2012, he shuttled back and forth between his wife's hospital bed and the NFL's labor negotiations with her encouragement. Myra Kraft passed away on July 20, 2011, and five days later, a grieving Robert Kraft stood outside the NFLPA's headquarters in Washington, D.C., as the 10-year CBA agreement was announced.

During the announcement, Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday embraced an emotional Kraft, and said, "A special thanks to Myra Kraft, who even in her weakest moment, allowed Mr. Kraft to come and fight this out, and without him this deal does not get done. I don't want to be climactic in any way, but he is a man who helped us save football, and we are so gracious for that. We're gracious for his family and for the opportunity he presented to get this deal done."

GRONKOWSKI PROGRESSING, HAPPY ABOUT CONTRACT EXTENSION

During his sophomore season in the NFL, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski propelled his status from "up and coming" to "elite". Gronk set several records at his position and was selected to the Pro Bowl and All Pro teams after a truly remarkable season.

A few weeks ago, the Patriots and Gronkowski agreed to a six-year extension that will make him one of the highest paid tight ends in the league. However, Gronkowski hasn't had a chance to hit the practice field thus yet, as he continues to rehab the ankle he injured in the AFC Championship.

Speaking with reporters on Monday, Gronkowski said his ankle was "great" and he's very excited to be a Patriot for years to come.

"I'm just happy," Gronkowski said. "Both sides are really happy. I'm very happy to be here. I love all my fans out there. Great community, great team, it's awesome going out there every single Sunday and playing every Sunday in front of that crowd. I'm happy to be here long-term definitely, and I just feel like both sides are really happy. It just worked out well."

ANDRUZZI AIDED BY CURRENT PLAYERS IN CHARITY GOLF TOURNAMENT

Ever since he battled Non-Hodgkin's Burkitt's Lymphoma, former Patriots offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi has done everything he can to help try and find a cure for this terrible disease.

At his annual Charity Golf Tournament, Andruzzi called on former teammate Tedy Bruschi and a few current Patriots in Rob Gronkowski, Rob Ninkovich and Logan Mankins to help him host this great event. Speaking with reporters today, Andruzzi talked a little bit more about what his foundation does, and what it means to have fellow players out here to help promote the event.

"Why we're here and what we're about is to help families, those families that are struggling," Andruzzi said. "I was fortunate enough to play in the NFL for 10 years. Other families aren't as fortunate. I know those walls close in when you're at the hospital. Sometimes a caregiver has to leave their job, but the mortgage still needs to be paid; rent still needs to be paid; [there are] utility bills. That's where our foundation steps in."

"We had to put a little spin on the golf outing," Andruzzi grinned. "Rob and Rob, since they've come here to the Patriots -- I didn't have a chance to play with either one of them -- but they've been a part of my gala and they've been part of the golf outing for the last few years now. They're really supportive of everything we do and they're great in the community, so to have them come out and attach their name to the golf outing is just an added bonus."

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