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Kraft remarks on Hall nomination, referee deal

Thursday afternoon, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio announced this year’s nominees for enshrinement. The list of 127 former players, coaches, and others includes former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe and 24 contributors to the game. Among the latter, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a first-time nominee.

"I always loved football and as a dreamer, you hope as a little kid that you could play in the NFL. I learned early on that wasn't going to happen. It's a great honor to be nominated, a wonderful gesture," Kraft remarked shortly after the news was announced

"I think the people who have come before me have done a great job of setting this game up as America's premier sports entertainment product. I guess what I'm probably happiest about is that anyone who thinks about what the Patriots were before our family took ownership, and what they are today, and how I've tried to help at the league level and always tried to put the league first – even ahead of our own team because I thought that was good business for the Patriots."

In November, the list of 127 will be narrowed down to 25 semifinalists.

Kraft also commented on the new deal between the league and its formerly locked out game officials.

"We had really hoped that the refs would have been in before the first game, and I know [NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell worked very hard to do it. I thought we were close. But any time you try to do a long-term deal, it's difficult, and if you want to get the right agreement, it means you have to take on the hard issues… anyone who is a half-decent businessman knows the money is always an issue, but it was not the main issue.

"The hardest thing for us," added Kraft, "to have this new agreement, have these full-time officials and create a bench of officials, a deep pool, and still maintain the commissioner's ability to discipline and allow those refs who did a great job, like in a private business, get rewarded and do the playoffs. And so we were able to maintain those rights. I understand the fans being disappointed, but this didn't happen right away. Believe me, we wanted it."

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