FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft had put down his boxing gloves and was ready to call off the fight.
While stating his disappointment with the Wells report on Wednesday, Kraft said that there was no real recourse and that fighting the league and extending the debate would prove to be futile. Thus, he would accept the findings and take the appropriate actions, as well as any discipline levied by the league -- which was his way of standing up for his team, but also bowing down to the NFL shield.
About that bow?
Make it a "pow"!
After the NFL came down hard on the Patriots on Monday, an enraged Kraft decided this fight is not yet over. In doing so, he issued a strongly worded statement saying the NFL's punishment "far exceeded any reasonable expectation" because it was based on "circumstantial rather than hard or conclusive evidence." He also called the Wells report "one-sided" before stating, "Tom Brady has our unconditional support. Our belief in him has not wavered.”
The battle lines have been drawn.
Patriots-Steelers should be a terrific NFL kickoff game on Sept. 10, but Kraft vs. Goodell might be even more compelling. What has to have Kraft's stomach turning is that he's been one of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's biggest supporters over the years, backing him in his toughest days on the job.
For all his efforts on Goodell's behalf, Kraft is now left with a feeling that his team didn't get a fair trial from the man he has empowered as the NFL's iron-fist ruler. Even worse for Kraft, he was part of funding the "one-sided" Wells report ($5 million is our guess on the price tag) that Goodell used as the impetus to drop the hammer on his team and further slap the "cheater" label on them.
So he'll continue the fight, his relationship with Goodell almost certainly forever changed.
Then there's quarterback Tom Brady, whom Kraft in some ways views as a fifth son from their 15 years together, and a man he holds in the highest of regard from a character and integrity standpoint.
I'm convinced that one of the main reasons Kraft has been so strong in his public comments throughout is that Brady locked eyes with him behind closed doors and assured Kraft that he had nothing to do with deflating footballs, or ordering footballs to be deflated. If Kraft detected any wavering from Brady at any point, and felt there wasn't a plausible explanation of deflation via science, I think his tone throughout would be different.
So with Brady's legacy and reputation called into question by the NFL, and people such as the wife of Jets owner Woody Johnson taking victory laps at Brady's expense, Kraft will continue the fight.
This wasn't the intention just five days ago, when he was ready to put down his boxing gloves. At that point, Kraft was prepared to transition into "bridge-builder" mode, sort of the same way he did in 2011 when he ultimately helped bring players and owners together to end the NFL lockout.
But plans have changed.
This fight is still on.