PALM BEACH, Fla. – As business was being completed for the day here at The Breakers, Patriots Today's Brian Lowe and I had another chance to talk with Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who has appeared upbeat and energized these past couple of days in South Florida.
As he left his final meeting of the day, he stopped to chat with us and brought along Giants owner John Mara. Kraft introduced him with a comical anecdote.
"One of my favorite people in his family is his mother. I always call his mom, who's a great lady, 'The Looker.' And she says, 'Make sure how you say that, that you don't get that L to be an H. So, she's still got a great sense of humor," Kraft said with a laugh.
The feeling was quite obviously mutual.
"We've had a great relationship, our families, for many years now," Mara told us. "He's one of the most, if not the most respected owner in the league. Somebody I admire a great deal. I mean, the franchise he's built – especially considering where they came from – they now are the premier franchise in the league, what the rest of us aspire to be. We've been fortunate enough to beat them a couple times, but year in and year out, they're a model of consistency and great performance both on and off the field."
Mara alluded to the Super Bowl victories his Giants have earned over the Patriots, but insisted he never brings them up around Kraft.
"Believe me, he's brought it up with me once or twice," Mara joked.
"I'll say this, though," he added, "when we won the game, we came down off the platform accepting the trophy and there was Robert and Jonathan [Kraft, Patriots president], both there to congratulate us. Very classy move. Not the least bit surprising, knowing them."
No sooner had we wrapped up our brief chat with Mara than Kraft was back with his other good friend from New York, Jets owner Woody Johnson. Kraft kidded Johnson about trading for quarterback Tim Tebow and how that would further fuel the already heated on-field rivalry between New York and New England. But like with the Giants' Mara, it was clear that there is mutual respect and friendship between Johnson and Kraft.
"We have, I think, the most spirited contests in the NFL," offered Johnson.
"As long as the right team wins," Kraft replied with a good-natured pat on Johnson's arm. The two laughed as Kraft headed for the door.
Johnson stuck around for a few moments to talk about the aforementioned Tebow and toss in his own friendly barb back at Kraft.
"We've got a good, dynamic, versatile player that will be the second-string quarterback, and will do more than most second-string quarterbacks because he'll actually be playing most games, if not all games," Johnson stated.
"So, that's unusual. I think he'll add to Bob's fun. Bob will have to learn how to defend us. I think it will make the [Patriots-Jets] games a little more interesting.
Johnson acknowledged the on-field passion that both clubs share, as well as the intensity of the regional rivalry, but stressed that off the field, he and the Kraft family share a close bond.
It was a rare and enlightening moment, the chance encounter with the New York owners, and it put in sharper perspective a fact that often is lost in the heated moments of competition – that, at the end of the day, it is still just a game between friends.
A video version of this episode will appear later on patriots.com.