The toughest part of the New England Patriots' season was not trailing the Atlanta Falcons by 25 points in Super Bowl LI, at least not according to Robert Kraft.
The toughest moment didn't even come during the playoffs or during Tom Brady's four-game suspension for Deflategate.
As Kraft told Peter King of MMQB, the toughest moment of the season, in fact, came after the last preseason game in September, because it meant the team knew they would not see Brady for a month.
Kraft told King:
"It was after our last preseason game [Sept. 1 at the Giants]. We knew we couldn't have any communication with Tom for four weeks, because of his suspension. Without question, that was our hardest moment of the year. Tom lives in the same neighborhood as me. So we're naturally going to see each other in the neighborhood. But we couldn't have any contact whatsoever, and we were going to do this absolutely by the book. We weren't going to do anything that would allow anyone to think we were violating the league's order. No meetings, no calls, no texts. Nothing. Our bond goes beyond football, and to go a month during the season without communication with Tom ... That was really hard for me."
Kraft isn't exaggerating about the restrictions during the suspension. Brady wasn't allowed to have any contact with members of the coaching staff, couldn't play or discuss football with teammates, and he couldn't receive game film from the team. He was basically cut off from the Patriots. Brady famously contacted one of his older receivers to throw to so he could stay sharp.
Of course, Kraft did not make his feelings about the suspension a secret. When the sanctions first came down in 2015, Kraft ripped Roger Goodell for the punishment.
Then, after the Patriots won the Super Bowl, Kraft made a not-so-subtle reference to the suspension, saying, "A lot has transpired over the last two years. And I don't think that needs any explanation."
Luckily for Kraft, Brady and the Patriots capped off a 17-game revenge tour in about the best way possible.