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Tim Benz: Penalties to Patriots owner Robert Kraft can’t extend to field |
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Tim Benz: Penalties to Patriots owner Robert Kraft can’t extend to field

Tim Benz
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft holds the Vince Lombardi trophy after the the Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, 2019.

Few hate the Patriots more than Steelers fans do.

OK. Maybe Steelers players, coaches and management.

But outside of the 412 and 724 area codes, the list is scant.

One of those who qualifies, though, may be Bart Scott.

Having played for both the Jets and Ravens in his career, his reasons to dislike the Patriots — even in retirement — are well earned.

But even with that predisposition to jump on negative headlines surrounding New England, Scott went off the deep end when he made the following comment about Pats owner Robert Kraft’s charges in Florida of soliciting prostitution.

“I would take their whole draft from them. it has to be something that cripples them,” he said.

Don’t hold your breath, Bart.

Sure. The accusations of Kraft are seedy. Scott is right: These headlines are a black eye for the league. But, c’mon. A loss of draft picks over this? It’s utterly incongruous.

Far be it from me to try to get in the mind of Scott. My guess is, though, he’s assuming that since the Patriots lost draft picks for Spygate and Deflategate, they should lose picks for this, too.

It’s not the same thing. The NFL deemed that the Patriots were gaining a competitive edge by committing those transgressions. Other teams have lost picks for pumping in crowd noise, manipulating the injured reserve list or circumventing the salary cap.

The Steelers got busted for that last charge in 2001.

However, if Kraft is found guilty, there’s still no conceivable on-field competitive advantage gained by an owner getting illegally serviced at a massage parlor.

Even if Kraft should somehow be implicated on worse charges — if he was involved in the human-trafficking extent of the investigation or if the women are under age — I can’t see a case being made for the Patriots facing any roster penalties.

Those angles may come into play in terms of how badly Kraft is penalized individually. His fine could be vast. He may lose ownership of the team for a spell. Who knows? If the charges extend beyond what we already know, maybe permanently.

But conflating the topics of Kraft’s alleged misdeeds and the roster makeup of the franchise is strictly hyperbole on Scott’s part.

Even in that hypothetical worst-case scenario for Kraft, what’s the worst that would happen? He’d probably hand the team over to his son, Jonathan. That’s precedent, right?

When Colts owner Jim Irsay got pinched for suspicion of DUI and drug possession in 2014, all he got was a $500,000 fine and a six-week suspension. His daughter, Carlie, took over day-to-day operation of the team during that time.

In 2017, following stories that surfaced regarding racist and sexist allegations against Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, he put the team up for sale before any formal sanctions were handed down by the league.

Neither the Colts nor the Panthers gave up picks in the process.

Even if Kraft and his whole family got forced out and the Patriots lost their whole draft — as Scott wants — something tells me they’d still go 12-4 anyway if Tom Brady and Bill Belichick were still ensconced in Foxborough.

Nothing in pro sports defines schadenfreude better than when the other 31 NFL fan bases can have a laugh at New England’s expense. But that has its limits.

And those limits should stop at Kraft personally and not extend to the Patriots on the field.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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