Kraft wasn't aware Belichick was breaking NFL rule

Updated: September 17, 2007, 11:09 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he didn't know his team was using a sideline camera that brought a hefty fine and loss of a draft pick, and expressed displeasure Sunday night with coach Bill Belichick for violating an NFL rule.

The video camera was confiscated during the first quarter of the season-opening 38-14 win at the New York Jets.

"Before last Sunday's game, I had no knowledge of this practice," Kraft said Sunday night in an NBC television interview at halftime of New England's game against the San Diego Chargers. "I must tell you, it was really disappointing, especially after such a great game.

"What made it particularly disheartening, in our group of companies we hold people to very high standards, and this isn't what we're about. I've discussed that with coach Belichick."

Kraft promised that "it won't happen again."

Kraft issued a written statement after the penalty imposed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was announced Thursday night. Belichick was fined $500,000, the maximum allowed, and the team $250,000. The Patriots also would lose a first-round draft choice next year if they make the playoffs, or a second- and third-rounder if they don't.

At first, Kraft thought that was too severe.

"I must tell you I was quite upset and perturbed when I saw the penalty, because I didn't think that the incident deserved this kind of punishment," he said. "Over the last couple of days I've been thinking about it and have cooled down. I realized he wasn't just sending a message to the New England Patriots, he was sending it to all 32 teams.

"I support that and I think so do the fans who emotionally get charged by us."

Belichick was "very articulate" in presenting his side of the videotaping to Goodell, Kraft said.

But the owner wouldn't say if he was considering additional action against his coach, who recently agreed to a long-term contract extension.

"Commissioner Goodell levied the highest penalty on anyone in the history of the NFL between the first-round draft choice and the financial penalty," Kraft said. "He made his statement known. We accepted it. Coach Belichick apologized and from here on in, it will be handled as an internal, private Patriots matter."

Goodell has ordered the the Patriots to turn over all videotape, files and notes relating to all their activity that resulted in the disciplinary action, sources familiar with the details of Goodell's private communication with the team told ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

If the Patriots are not compliant, the commissioner is prepared to impose even greater sanctions, Mortensen's sources said. Goodell promised as much when interviewed before Sunday night's game.

Goodell alluded to the league's position when he made his decision public to discipline the Patriots when he stated that the NFL would "review" and "monitor" the team's videotaping procedures, effective immediately. Privately, the commissioner was more specific in his demands and expectations with Kraft when the two men spoke Thursday, Mortensen's sources said.

In a letter to the Patriots announcing the penalty, Goodell had said, "This episode represents a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid long-standing rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field."

He said he considered suspending Belichick but didn't "largely because I believe that the discipline I am imposing of a maximum fine and forfeiture of a first-round draft choice, or multiple draft choices, is in fact more significant and long-lasting, and therefore more effective, than a suspension."

Speaking to NBC, Goodell said he trusted that the Patriots would turn over all the information to the league that was requested.

"I'm very confident the Patriots are going to abide by the rules," he said. "They understand that the consequences could increase."

Chris Mortensen covers the NFL for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.