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Yet nearly everyone involved in the talks knew something about his wife, and grew to understand what the Krafts meant to each other. That's why so many of the bargaining sessions were held in the Northeast corridor -- close to Kraft's base in Boston -- but also why Kraft's presence at most of them strengthened the resolve on both sides to get a deal done.
It didn't hurt, of course, that Kraft already had a reputation as one of the few owners willing to speak his mind. And his quip, "We need to get the lawyers out of the way," probably did more to bring about a resumption of face-to-face talks between a select group of owners and players than all the threats of legal action. So it came as little surprise that Smith, the NFLPA's executive director, felt it necessary to echo what Saturday had said only moments earlier.
"We couldn't have done this," he told Kraft, "without you."
"Grace" is a term we throw around in sports with little more thought than some of the lazy spirals that will be arcing over practice fields in 32 towns when training camps open later this week. Remember that when footballs start filling up the air again.
Getting a labor agreement, considering how much Kraft, his fellow owners, his players and everybody else connected to the NFL will profit, hardly qualifies as an unselfish act. But make no mistake: At a time when he had much more important things tugging at his heart, just by showing up, Kraft taught everyone else sitting around the table that some sacrifices are worth making.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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