By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report is one of the more well-connected NFL writers in the business. And while he's not hearing buzz from the other 31 owners around the league, he's hearing plenty from other (presumably) well-placed sources about what could happen to Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
Kraft is facing charges of soliciting another for prostitution at a now-closed day spa in Jupiter, Fla. An affidavit released to reporters describes in graphic detail what he allegedly did in two visits less than 24 hours apart. And authorities continue to claim there is video evidence of everything described in those documents, which Kraft is ostensibly fighting to have sealed away so it never goes public.
But even if Kraft is able to plea his charges down to something minimal, the charges still happened. The damage has been done to his public image and also to that of "The Shield". So the NFL almost certainly will punish Kraft, perhaps more severely than he will in court. You'd have to think that, if the league really wants to make an example of the Patriots owner, the minimum punishment would be the same that Colts owner Jim Irsay got for his legal troubles in 2014 (six-game suspension, $500,000 fine).
Freeman is getting the sense that it could be a lot stronger than that. It remains implausible that the Patriots organization would get any punishment, based on the premise that it's not a competitive issue related to football. But "the general consensus" according to Freeman's reporting is that Kraft could face a harsher punishment than Irsay.
Kraft's alleged transgression, a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida, isn't as serious in a legal context as Irsay's. The Colts owner originally faced felony drug charges after authorities found a number of unprescribed pill bottles in his car. He ultimately plead guilty to one count of DWI.
But anyone who's followed the Patriots closely during Bill Belichick's tenure knows that, regardless of how you feel about the team's behavior or any other team's actions across the league, the NFL has simply gone after them harder than the rest and the media scrutiny has been far stronger. That's just the reality of what's happened. Other teams have been accused of manipulating the air pressure in their footballs, but none were nearly punished as severely as Tom Brady and the Patriots were in the objectively overblown "DeflateGate" scandal. There was never a serious suggestion that a Super Bowl MVP shouldn't have been allowed to play because of a PED suspension until it was Julian Edelman winning the award.
Owners have wanted their pound of flesh with the Patriots in the past. This time it's one of their own allegedly behaving badly off the field. It would be surprising if the other 31 truly wanted or expected Kraft to become a pariah, considering the skeletons that may be piling up in other owners' closets. But perhaps if Kraft gets hit with something unprecedented, it would set the example that the league may be trying to make of him.
If the allegations against Kraft are indeed true, he certainly deserves something from the league office. But buzz is building that he could get a stronger punishment than has ever been seen before, and for Patriots observers that should come as a surprise to no one.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].