Robert Kraft: I 'hope and pray' Patriots fit into Tom Brady's plans

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Robert Kraft doesn't speak publicly very often, so he hasn't addressed Tom Brady's contract situation and the possibility he could have played his final game in New England -- until Saturday when he spoke with NBC Sports' Peter King.

The Patriots owner said he hopes and prays Brady returns to New England.

“Before the season started it was very important to Tom that he be free to do whatever he wanted at the end of the year," Kraft said. "You know what I said to myself? That any person who plays 20 years for this team and helps us get to six Super Bowls, and been really selfless, has earned that right. I love the young man like he’s part of my family. Blood family. Anyone who’s done that has earned the right to control his future after 20 years.

"And you know, my hope and prayer is number one, he play for the Patriots. Or number two, he retires. He has the freedom to decide what he wants to do and what’s in his own best personal interest.”

He added: “I’m thinking of all that, of all the quarterbacks who went elsewhere, and I just hope and believe that Tom . . . he is so special that he’s earned the right to do what’s best for him. . . . But I just hope and pray we fit into his plans. He is unique in the kind of leader he is, his work ethic, his selfless nature, everything. Think about it: He’s been with us 20 percent of the life of the NFL.”

King asked Kraft if it was a melancholy week for him?

“I don’t know if I’d say melancholy,” he said. “I think I just realize that I shouldn’t take for granted how lucky we have been. I saw a stat that the Buffalo Bills haven’t won a playoff game since ’95. Not one. And that brought it home. We’ve won over 30. So . . . how lucky we’ve been. But also we know you can’t rest on your laurels. Things change and you’ve got to have an edge and look to how you keep things going the best you can.”

Brady will officially become a free agent on March 18, but he can re-sign with the Patriots any time before then.