Deflategate has now been inflated into a permanent stain on the New England Patriots.

No matter what a court concludes, the team's–and Tom Brady's–reputation will never be the same.

If you're a fan, you can call them "victims";  if you're not, then "cheaters" is your word of choice.

Tom Brady may be the face of the Patriots, but–in the end–he's just an employee of owner Bob Kraft, and Kraft has sent conflicting messages of guilt or innocence:

"If the Wells investigation is not able to definitively determine that our organization tampered with the air pressure in the footballs, I would expect and hope that the league would apologize to our entire team," said Kaft on January 26.

That was Kraft, the avenging angel, when the charges were initially made. 

So when he was fined $1 million dollars, and Roger Goodell took a top draft pick away, didn't you expect Kraft to fight it?

But he didn't:

"I'm going to accept reluctantly what he has given to us, and not continue this dialogue and rhetoric.  And we won't appeal," said Kraft on May 19.

Then, today, Kraft says it was all a  mistake, and blames the NFL:

"I have come to the conclusion that this was never about doing what was fair and just," said Kraft.

It sounds like what would have been "fair and just" to Kraft was just another trade:  A million bucks and a player to be named later in exchange for Tom Brady playing every game this season.

The NFL is not about air pressure, it's about money and power.

Bob Kraft has a lot, but the NFL and its other owners have more.

The Patriots are playing a losing hand.

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