Coming off a defeat in the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots' offseason does not exactly lack drama. From the surprise benching of starting cornerback Malcolm Butler to speculation about tension within the organization to the retirement rumors surrounding tight end Rob Gronkowski to questions about Tom Brady's commitment beyond this year, the Patriots have seen it all in the past two months.
However, there is little to worry about – at least according to team owner Robert Kraft, who recently spoke to The Athletic Boston's Jeff Howe about the apparent questions his team faces. Kraft usually came back to one remark to address those uncertainties: it's not an issue, no matter if it is Brady's current contract situation or Gronkowski potentially hanging up his cleats.
Regarding Brady, who has two years left on his deal and in the past would be due for a contract extension at this time, Kraft noted that the team will deal with it if it becomes a problem: “[He will] be 41 when the season starts,” the Patriots' long-time owner told Howe during their chat. “Neither side has an issue with [the current contract situation]. If it becomes an issue, we’ll deal with it.”
Well aware of Brady's age, Kraft also knows that the end is in sight for the quarterback that has played a key role in bringing five Super Bowl trophies to New England. However, the 76-year old hopes that his quarterback makes true on his previous predictions that he would continue playing until he was 45 years old.
“I hope he plays,” Kraft said. “He’s at a different point in his life. He talked about it. It’s interesting to see that 'Tom vs Time' and see where he’s at, his kids growing up. But that is something for he and his family to decide what is right for him. Me personally, I’d like to see him play as long as he can [...] He is driven to excel. I think as long as he feels he is like that, he’ll keep playing. We’re so lucky to have him in our system.”
Brady is not the only star player on Kraft's payroll to head towards an uncertain future: as noted above, there has been speculation about tight end Rob Gronkowski deciding to end his career after what has been described as a difficult year for him. While there was never a definitive statement made by the 28-year old, the rumor mills were running overtime ever since he was noncommittal about returning shortly after the Super Bowl.
For Kraft, however, this is no cause for concern. “It’s not even an issue for me,” Kraft told Howe. “I didn’t know about it until I read about it in the paper. “I saw him [at Gillette Stadium]. We have a fun, good relationship. He is one of the most up people I know. I was impressed that he was coming in late and doing whatever he had to do to make himself feel right and get his body right.”
Kraft's comments go in line with previous reports that Gronkowski is expected back. And while the statements will still not put an end to the speculation surround New England this offseason, they are another indicator that the team will be fine heading into the 2018 season.