Robert Kraft has turned New England into a football juggernaut. Now all he has to do is save the NFL.
By William D. Cohan, contributor
Neither fate nor the collective bargaining gods could have timed it better. Three days before the start of the NFL season this year, on a sunny Thursday morning at 6:34, Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady was cruising in his black Audi down Gloucester Avenue in Boston's Back Bay when he slammed into a minivan that had run a red light coming down Commonwealth Avenue.
Brady tried to swerve, but the front end of the Audi smashed into the side of the minivan. "I was scared out of my mind," Brady later said. Glass shattered everywhere, a woman walking her dog nearby fell over backward, and the passenger of the minivan was seriously injured; the police had to use the Jaws of Life to extract him. Brady walked away unscathed -- he practiced with the team later that day -- but not before giving the Patriots' owner, Robert Kraft, the scare of his life. "We have a lot to be thankful for," Kraft told ESPN after the accident. "It was really a miracle."
The very next day, miracle in hand, Brady went to Kraft's office and signed a new, four-year, $72 million contract that would keep him with the Patriots until 2014 and would make him the highest-paid player in NFL history. The contract extension had been the subject of intense public scrutiny for months, with Brady heading into the final season of his six-year deal unsigned. While they had been working toward a deal, the accident, both parties say, was the tipping point that forced action. "It put in perspective everything we're doing," Kraft said. "We're very, very lucky." (As he later told Fortune, "We have a special relationship. He's like a real son.") More
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