Off-the-field troubles have plagued the New England Patriots during the off-season, but fans are confident the team will withstand the controversies and have another solid year.
“They’re the Patriots. Of course they will do well,” said Foxboro resident Ryan Sylvia, 39, a business analyst who attended Thursday night’s pre-season game against the Carolina Panthers at Gillette Stadium. “They have a track record.”
When asked about team owner Robert Kraft, who was charged in February with pending charges of paying for sex acts at a South Florida massage parlor, Sylvia said his legal troubles should not affect the team. “He’s not playing; he’s just the owner,” he said.
Kraft pleaded not guilty to two charges of soliciting prostitution. Police in Jupiter, Florida, say they have video surveillance of Kraft engaging in sex acts on two different occasions at a massage parlor.
In March, Kraft issued a statement that read in part: “I am truly sorry. I know I have hurt and disappointed my family, my close friends, my co-workers, our fans and many others who rightfully hold me to a higher standard.” Kraft was in the owner’s box at Thursday night’s game.
Regarding safety Patrick Chung, who earlier this month was indicted in New Hampshire on felony charges of cocaine possession, Sylvia’s friend, Alex St. George, who also lives in Foxboro, said that while Chung is a “great player” who “does a lot for the team,” if he is suspended, the Patriots “deep secondary” will take care of business.
“If the charges are true, he will probably get suspended, but the team will rise up,” said St. George, 34, a product manager.
Elizabeth Conner, 22, a salon manager from North Reading, said that she wants to wait to let the legal system “take its course” before denouncing Kraft and Chung.
“If they are found guilty, then I will have something to say,” she said. “But until then, I’m just going to focus on football and the Patriots having another winning season.”
Not everyone was so forgiving.
Elise Noble, 27, a Boston-based financier who was raised in South Carolina and is a Panthers fan, called Patriots fans “delusional.”
“The fact that there are fans who don’t have a problem with Kraft paying for sex at a place where there (was reportedly) sex trafficking going on is disgusting,” said Noble, who was tailgating before Thursday night’s game with a friend who is a Patriots fan. “And now one of your players is caught with cocaine — not your run-of-the-mill performance-enhancing drug. Good role model for kids...”
Her friend, who did not want to give his name, told Noble to “take it easy” and suggested she take a wait-and-see approach. “Maybe (Chung had) baking soda,” he joked.
Chung, who has played nine seasons with the Patriots — including three Super Bowl wins — did not play in Thursday night’s game and was not seen on the sidelines.
Controversies aside, Patriots fans were excited for the team’s first home pre-season game — especially since star quarterback Tom Brady was expected to play.
“He’s very driven and I am confident he is going to do well,” St. George said.
“More importantly,” Sylvia chimed in, “he has the confidence in himself.”
St. George’s son, David, 7, said he was looking forward to seeing his first Patriots game at Gillette Sstadium.
“I’m looking forward to them winning, because they always win,” said the third-grader. And his favorite player? “Gronk (retired tight end Rob Gronkowski) was my favorite, but he retired, so now I like Tom Brady.”
Sylvia’s son, Jameson, 7, said that wide receiver Julian Edelman is his favorite player because “he catches a lot and is super fast.”
The Patriots beat the Panthers 10-3.