NFL: Super Bowl LIV-San Francisco 49ers vs Kansas City Chiefs

ROBERT KRAFT

IT SHOULDN’T REALLY come as a shock, but every time it happens it’s a pleasant surprise.

Leaders stepping up in a time of need.

As we all stayed (hopefully) glued to our homes trying to survive the virus, many in sports have followed the old “when the going gets tough …” axiom and provided relief.

None of the relief has even come close to what Robert Kraft did this week.

Yes, Drew Brees is donating $5 million to the state of Louisiana and so many others have made healthy contributions. But the other day, Kraft, the owner of the most polarizing team in sports, went above and beyond when he teamed with Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker and pulled off the mask deal with China, with Kraft picking up a $2 million tab.

And a major part of one of the expected two shipments rode the Patriots’ semi to New York, where Kraft has always maintained a major presence.

For even a short period of time, there was no reason for Patriots haters to … you know, hate the Patriots.

“I’ve always liked Robert Kraft,” tweeted veteran writer Gary Myers, a New Yorker who started in this business with this scribe. “He has strong roots in New York. He attended Columbia and has an apartment in a midtown hotel. His kindness and generosity to New York sending 300,000 masks to first responders makes it hard for Jets fans to hate the Pats. Of course it helps TB is gone.”

TB, of course, is Tom Brady, who now PLAYS for TB — at least he will if there is an NFL season. This week, we learned Brady will be living in Derek Jeter‘s incredible Tampa Bay mansion, and that Brady will still be TB12, with receiver Chris Godwin switching to No. 14 and apparently more than willing to do it.

Tweeted Myers: “This is a 1-2 punch to the gut of New England sports fans: 1. Tom Brady leaves the Patriots and signs with the Bucs 2. He rents Derek Jeter’s mansion in Tampa. He couldn’t have found somebody, anybody, else’s house? Well, at least Brady’s six rings beats Jeter’s five.”

Remaining on hold

There was every indication we might not have sports — of any kind — any time soon; perhaps not at all in 2020. All this talk of playing games with no fans is a decent concept, but is there really any such thing as an empty stadium? Someone has to turn on the lights, water the grass, make the ice, etc. As an MLB official scorer, I would think there has to be press box activity. Do the games get covered from home?

And when can we be sure the virus has gone — or if it won’t rekindle when the weather turns back to cool and cold?

I just don’t think the empty stadium thing will happen. But I’m also the guy who thought Brady would stay in New England.

Yankee reliever Zach Britton is among those who says the empty stadium thing can work.

“I know there’s sites that have already been discussed. I’m not sure if I should even say this publicly, but there’s four or five sites that are up in the air that MLB and the union have slightly discussed that these are spots that have the resources, facilities, hotels that could host a major-league team if we get to that point,” Britton said on MLB Radio.

Super agent Scott Boras, a proponent of neutral site games, speaking to The Boston Globe’s Michael Silverman, says, “We can prepare a system that provides inspiration and do it in a responsible way that aligns with the standards of isolation.

“I think it’s something that could be considered.”

Stay calm

The Patriots Twitter account released a short statement from Bill Belichick, accompanied by the hashtag “togetherwhileapart.” Said Belichick: “Let’s keep stringing good days together and we will get through this.”

An April Fools tidbit had Julian Edelman leaving the Pats for a two-year contract in Detroit. Interesting enough, but Edelman is signed in New England through at least this coming season.

Meanwhile, Edelman, the 232nd player taken in the NFL draft, led fans through a virtual workout on the internet. No equipment was necessary for the 10-minute workout. Even after shoulder surgery, he was there doing the work, saying, “This is a dream of mine,” he said.

While Las Vegas has the Patriots with the highest over/under win total (9.5), Bills GM Brandon Beane says, “The team to beat in the East is the Patriots. And until somebody beats them, they are the team to beat. And as long as Bill Belichick’s there, you’re talking about probably the greatest head coach of all time that was paired with the greatest quarterback of all time.

“So until we beat them, we’ve done nothing, and we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

Not if there’s no season.

Brady is a Buc, but where is he on the current list of NFL quarterbacks? Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com ranked the QBs in terms of overall value and who would you want going forward.

Obviously, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson were 1-2. Jimmy Garoppolo came in at No. 13. Brady 16th sandwiched between Jared Goff and Sam Darnold.

Brady can still play,” Rosenthal wrote. “But asking him to break all previous boundaries for a soon-to-be 43-year-old quarterback and then do it again at 44 with a second guaranteed year isn’t a formula for value. In a best-case scenario, Brady could be a borderline top-10 quarterback in the short term. The worst-case scenario is uglier than the current Bucs uniforms.”

The NFL is still ready to have its draft on time. But virtually. Good idea? ESPN’s Adam Schefter sure doesn’t think so, saying, “OTAs? That’s not happening. The offseason program? That’s not happening. The draft is happening only through the sheer force and determination and lack of foresight from the NFL, frankly. “They are determined to put this on while there is carnage in the streets.”

No opening day

It was cold. It was damp. But the Red Sox and White Sox would have gotten Thursday’s Fenway Opening Day in before bad storms hit at night and into Friday.

The whole thing was eerie.

Then again, most things are eerie in the world these days.

While there have been other delays — those dealing with work stoppages — this past week reminded me of my first full season as a baseball writer.

Back in 1982, I had just spent over two months in Fort Lauderdale (I know, tough assignment, right?) covering the Yankees. Coming north, the Tuesday opening day was postponed by a snowstorm, the Yankees not playing until losing a Sunday doubleheader to the White Sox at Yankee Stadium. That was the start of a forgettable 79-83 season.

I remember a car picking me up and taking me to a local morning show in Manhattan — I was a guest along with the great Dick Schaap — but there was more to the layoff. Through a George Steinbrenner connection, the Yankees and their media boarded buses for a trip up the Hudson to West Point, for an indoor workout that included batting practice.

The event was topped off by a lunch with the cadets, where “the 1981 American League champion New York Yankees” were introduced to a loud roar.

Kind of a cool day.

Looking around

Back to the generosity during these tough times, Al Horford donated $500,000 to his native Dominican Republic and the three towns he has called home, Atlanta, Boston and Philly. …

One of the ideas being tossed out there for MLB has a home run derby deciding extra-inning games, kind of like the NHL shootouts. L.A. Dodger Justin Turner says play one extra inning (not go 17 or 18) and then go to a derby. “You know, you wanna keep fans in the stands until the end of the game,” he says. “I know when I go to hockey games, I actually enjoy watching shootouts. That keeps me in my seat, so maybe a home run derby will do that as well.” …

Marcus Smart has recovered from his battle with the virus, but there was no rush. ...

Winning can be costly. From @BostonSprtsnews: “Kansas City Chiefs are milking the 2020 salary cap for all it is worth. The Chiefs are about as close as they can get without going over. Right now, the Chiefs have exactly $177 in cap space! They need about 5 to 6 Million for the 2020 NFL Draft.” …

Watching the Red Wings winning the 2002 Stanley Cup, we were reminded Scotty Bowman won NINE Stanley Cups and had won nine straight potential clinching games with that victory. After the final horn, Bowman, who retired after the game, slipped into the locker room and came back on skates to join the celebration. Very cool. …

Evan Gattis, now retired, apologized for his Astros cheating, telling The Athletic, “I’m not asking for sympathy or anything like that. If our punishment is being hated by everybody forever, just like, whatever. I don’t know what should be done, but something had to (bleep) be done. I do agree with that, big time. I do think it’s good for baseball that we’re cleaning it up … And I understand that it’s not (bleep) good enough to say sorry. I get it.” …

With the world starved for sports, ESPN and Netflix have pushed the 10-part documentary of Michael Jordan‘s Bulls up to April 19. …

His WWE work on hold, Rob Gronkowski is the grand marshal for Sunday’s virtual iRacing event on Fox. …

Remember when Smart set the Celtics’ record with 11 3-pointers. Well, we’re reminded he did it on 22 trey attempts. Isaiah Thomas and Antoine Walker (twice), who shared the old mark of nine, did in on 13, 14 and 14 tries, respectively. …

Kudos to Rhode Island cops who are catching Mass. residents sneaking into R.I. to play golf when the sport is open only to R.I. residents. It’s only a misdemeanor but we love it. …

The Cowboys, never shy about bringing in troubled players, have signed Aldon Smith, out of the league for four seasons and still in need of reinstatement, to a one-year contract. He last played for the Raiders, in 2015. …

Paul Lo Duca, who fessed up to his PED use, rips Alex Rodriguez for not doing the same thing, telling WFAN in New York, “I never will be a fan. I just think he’s one of the fakest people out there. I didn’t lie; I owned up to it immediately. It was over with and people could judge me the way they want to judge me. I could care less. But when you completely lie (like Rodriguez) about it for years after years after years, if you cash in $260 million and people are like, ‘He’s successful,’ well, hell yeah, he’s successful. He got paid over $500 million in his career.” …

Remember Albert Belle? The former GREAT hitter revealed his play for a 112-game MLB season to Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com, saying, "You have 30 teams, 15 in the American League and 15 in the National League. If each AL team plays each other four times at home and four times on the road that’s 112 games. You’d have the same thing in the National League. Forget about the inter-league play. Forget about the All-Star Game. Just play. You’d just have a mini-marathon. We could tweak the schedule, turn back the clock and have some fun with it." ...

Finally, we give you Hall of Fame writer Jayson Stark on the delayed opener: “Just flipped the calendar in my office to April — and realized we’re looking at an April with no baseball. So here’s your fact of the day: The last year there were no major-league baseball games played on any day in April? 1883! @OldHossRadbourn could tell you all about it!”

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.

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