**Robert Kraft's Introduction**
This is an interesting introduction for me because I think back to the day we bought the team. I guess it was January 21, 1994 and the next day at 10 o'clock at night I get a call from coach [Bill] Parcells to say we have to do a $10 million contract. I asked him why and it seemed like a lot of money. He explained to me the importance of a left tackle, how he protects the franchise. It's 10 o'clock at night and my wife is reading next to me and so I say, 'OK Bill, go ahead. $10 million for four years.' I hang up the phone and, my wife already thought I was nuts for buying the team the previous day and the price we paid, when I hung up the phone she said, 'Is the house in my name?' I just thought back to that today and I've thought of some of the other contracts we've done, and there's no doubt in my mind that this has to be one of the best values we did and it was the first contract we did. I feel a pretty special tie to this gentleman. I sat here in [section] 217 when he came into the league, on the goal line. I mentioned to him that he has actually played for almost half the life of this stadium, he's played here; which is so unusual today, which is one of the reasons I feel so bonded to him. But at the same time he is one of the classiest players ever to put on a Patriot uniform. He represents the kind of legacy we'd like to build here and the kind of people we'd like to have on this team. He had an injury that almost ruined his career, it would have ruined some other people's careers and he came back and made four Pro Bowls. I believe he's played in six Pro Bowls and he's played in more games than any other Patriots player. So it's nice to know that someone can start here and also finish here. One other thing, he is probably one of the most intelligent gentlemen I have ever met. He was reading this author, Patricia Cornwall, way ahead of someone very close to me who reads about three, four books a week and he's a veracious reader and just someone whose just an all around great person and someone we're happy to retire his shirt and wave the five-year rule and put him in the Hall of Fame. The best left tackle to play for the New England Patriots, Bruce Armstrong.
Q: Did you see the hit on Drew?
Q: Your opinion?
BB: From which side? I played defense in high school. As a defensive player that's the hits that you always talk about. I mean we used to stand up in the meetings and talk about breaking his chest cavity or busting his spleen or something like that. In college we would give out stickers for those kinds of hits. As far as professionally, you might not want to say it out loud, but those are the kinds of hits that people watch football for. But because he is my former quarterback and my friend, it was hard to watch.
Q: Those are the kinds of hits you spent your career trying to keep him from getting?
BB: And I would have been the first one to tell him, 'Next time get out of bounds,' when he got back up. But I talked to him, I talked to him twice since. I talked to him in the hospital and I talked to him when he got out. I'll go see him today. It was very hard to watch. I probably felt like his mom says she feels when she had to watch the game. When you have that kind of relationship and you are powerless to do anything about it, you just always hope for the best. It is a reminder that it is a violent game and stuff like that can happen.
Q: He has always referred to you as his safety blanket. You had a relationship with him that was beyond strictly professional?
BB: Very accurate.
Q: Could you talk about that a little bit?
BB: It is a business, it is without question. If you play as long as I have you'll have bonds with teammates that come in and out and people go. It's like Irving Fryar told me my second year, a guy who came in with me as rookie got cut the second year in training camp. He walked in and I had this face on, 'What's wrong with you?' He was my locker mate, he was right next to me. 'You mad because such and such got cut.' He said, 'Let me tell you something. You are going to play in this league a long time. You are going to see a lot of players come and go. Get over it. Ok?' When you do find somebody that you believe in, somebody that you think can help you win football games, somebody that you know cares about winning as much as you do and it is your job to facilitate him doing his job, yeah you take it personally. You take it in the locker room. You take it on the field and you take it off the field. And that is one of the things that you miss more than anything is that fact that it's hard to find those kind of relationships in regular life, in regular business, things like that and those types of bonds.
Q: Some guys walk away from the game and you never see them again. Other guys have a difficult time adjusting to life after the sport. Where are do you fall?
BB: I'm somewhere in the middle. It's hard, you say walk away totally, I don't want to do that. I have been a football player for a long time, 20 years if you go back to high school. I do not harbor any bad sentiments toward the organization or the franchise. The only thing about it is I am not a New Englander. I don't like the cold weather. So I more than likely won't be around the stadium every week, in that aspect. But when you play for one franchise, spend your whole career with one, I will always be a Patriot. You ask me how do you walk away without any reservations. It's probably hard for a lot of people to give it up. Apparently I am doing something wrong because everybody keeps telling me that I am supposed to be missing it at this time of year. But physically I feel great. Mentally I'm fine. Emotionally, you watch it on Sundays and would still like to be out there, but I also know what it entails to be out there. I know what my body feels like on Monday morning and I don't miss that. There are some things I miss, but there are a number of things I don't miss right now.
Q: What are the things that you miss?
BB: Like we talked about, the camaraderie and relationships with some of the guys. Sundays, Sundays at 1:00 pm, that is how Parcells used to put it. There's no greater feeling in the world. But then you compound that also, when you lose that game, after you put the whole week into those three hours, when you lose that game if you care like some people care about it, it haunts you. You take it with you all week. You know you've got to go back to work. You've got to do this. But when you win, that is the high that you are looking for because you can carry that one all week too. I miss Sunday's at 1:00 pm and I miss winning. I don't miss losing. I don't miss that feeling.
Q: You look at the way this team played in '94 and '96 offensively, what is the difference between then and this team now?
BB: The ability to make plays when necessary. It sounds so simple and in '94 and '96, offensively, I think that is the question you asked, we stayed on the football field. If it was third and three, we got four. If it was third and six, we got seven. The ability to make plays when we needed them is what kept us on the football field. We kept the chains moving.
Q: Was that a function of just better players?
BB: It was a function of, it was player, it was key players. It was Drew [Bledsoe]. It was Curtis [Martin]. It was Ben [Coates]. It was the fact that we were usually, and you asked me about '94 and '96 and that's what I am answering and in no way trying to be detrimental to last year and this current team now. We kind of were always prepared for the situation when it came. And I think that builds confidence and when you got your confidence you get to the point where, 'OK we'll make the plays when we need to make the plays.' Like those two games in the Meadowlands and even when we lost that game in Dallas. I think it was 13-6 or 13-7, something like that. We still thought that we would win that football game because that is what that whole season had prepared us to do. We had guys confident that when the time comes to make plays, we're gonna make those plays.
Q: Was Parcells the best guy you played for?
BB: Oh yeah. He's a good football guy. He knows a lot about the game. He knows almost as much about the game as he thinks he does.
Q: Was that the highlight of your career, going to the Super Bowl that year?
BB: Without question, yeah. Before, when we were younger and the team wasn't making the playoffs, it is why you watch the game. It was what you aspire to get to. You saw how the programs that got there did it and then we learned how to win and then we got there and got so close. The remainder of the career was spent trying to get back there and trying to win it all. It is why you should play the game, just to win. Only one team is standing at the end and those are the ones they call champions.
Q: Having seen the way you guys responded in '94 and '96 it had to be particularly frustrating for you to see it not happen last year?
BB: You are absolutely right. The thing about this game is that it's never one play. It's always a culmination of plays. I don't know what the people in the stands see or when you guys watch the game, but we go in and you watch all 70 plays. Then you've got to go to another meeting and watch all 70 plays then and you see the opportunity. And there's the difference between the teams that have a chance to win it and then teams don't. They capitalize on more opportunities than the other ones and it is frustrating.
Q: Did last years team recognize those times and not be able to deliver or did they not even see the opportunities?
BB: That is a good question and you've got to understand that in this game too, there are 53 guys on the other team trying to make the most out of their opportunities also. So it has got to be a combination of that. That you don't take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves and the other team takes advantage of theirs more.
Q: Have you considered playing at all this year with other teams and at what point did you decide enough is enough?
BB: Well mentally I had no timetable in my head. Nothing ever came of it so for me it was never even a question. People say, 'What would you have done?' I don't know, there's too much supposition in there to say I would have done this or I wouldn't have done that. It never presented itself. I made no bones about it. I always said I wanted to play here and finish my career in one place. And I made no bones about wanting to play another year, but it didn't work out that way.
Q: Throughout your career did you ever think about this day?
BB: If you had asked me if I would be up here talking I would have said no. But as far as perspective goes, in professional sports once you hit 30 they start saying, well you know it's kind of down hill from here, that kind of thing. You hear it for a long time and you get to the point where no matter what you do, that's the first thing you talk about is your age. So when you say, 'Did you know this day was coming?' Unless I died when I was playing, yeah sure it was coming. How do I feel about it? Like I said, I will miss it. But I played for a long time so how long is long enough.
Q: What does it mean to you to have played more games than any other Patriot?
BB: Somebody called it a meaningless record and maybe to them it was. But it meant everything to me because if you go by the idea that football players play football, then it meant that I was a football player for a long time. I don't need to really say much after that.
Q: Was the Super Bowl loss, after you had gotten to the game; was that the lowest emotional point of your career?
BB: Yeah, the absolute bottom, any metaphor you want to use. In that locker room was just awful. You talk about the two extremes. I remember in '87, my rookie year, and I was riding with Steve Moore at the time. And he said something to me. He looked at me and he said, 'Everybody wants to get to the Super Bowl and everybody thinks about it being the greatest win that there is, and it probably is.' And he looked at me and he said, 'People don't understand that it is also the greatest loss in sports.' Because with most of the other sports they go four out of seven, but this is it. You've got three hours and just the opposing forces and glitter coming down and NFL Films running around taking pictures of everything and they got the trophy in the other locker room and basically now you become one of the other 29 or 30 teams that are trying to get what they have. It's awful, but that is where you have got to go if you want to get there.
Q: What advice would you give a long player as far as longevity and what to take out of football?
BB: You know what I really don't know what I could tell them because this game now, this league now, is not the same league it was when I came in and it is not the same game. So any advice that I give them, it might not be relevant, it might not hold true to them. The only thing I can say is that what worked for me was the desire to win and a belief that we stood a better chance of winning if I was on the football field than if I wasn't. And those are the tings that kept me in football games, that arrogance to a certain degree.
Q: How has the game changed?
BB: The degree that I think has changed that is good is that every year it is wide open, every year is wide open. There's not six teams, eight teams, that you know will make the playoffs and you know these teams are the only ones that really have a chance to go to the Super Bowl. With the free agency, with the salary cap, with player movement, the parody, and a lot of people…you will read articles that say the league is watered down because of it. Personally, I think it is great for the fans because you can really root for your team and you can really look forward to next season if your team didn't do well, but that is the caveat. You won't have guys spend 14 years in one place. You won't have the fans having some type of bond with the particular players. It'll be rare. It'll be in cases like Bledsoe. It would be hard pressed to see him play for anybody else. So it may be if you get your hands on a franchise quarterback or you get your hands on a star pass rusher, a defensive end, something that is hard to find, then you won't let those go. But in most cases a lot of players will become interchangeable and that is different. The aspect of what is important as far as being on the field, playing games and winning games, that kind of thing. That's changed a little bit I think, but other than that it is still a great game and it's the best team sport out there. It's a hell of a way to make a living.
Q: Any regrets?
BB: No, because one it doesn't do you any good. We're all adults in this room and one of the things that you think about with hind sight and I woulda, coulda, shoulda, it doesn't do any good. It drives you crazy. With the way things are in the country and the world right now and things that have happened lately, it really gives you a sense of kind of enjoy your day and that is where I am at. That's why I don't worry about things that I can't control or what other people think about me. I kind of like where I am. We all went to college. If somebody comes up to you and says, 'OK, you do this and at 35 you have X amount of money in the bank and you will be able to play golf for the rest of your life.' Which line would you go to? It's been good and now it is over.
Q: What's your handicap?
BB: What do you want to play for? I am not a sandbagger. I am supposed to play with the owner tomorrow so it depends on what he wants to play for. If I can get him to bet enough, maybe he'll be sitting with me in the owner's box on Sunday. It's down. This time of year I wouldn't be playing. Quarterbacks and kickers, when you watch those sport tournaments it is always quarterbacks and kickers because they don't get hit unless of course they don't get out of bounds when they are supposed to.