New England Patriots Chairman & CEO Robert Kraft, who played an instrumental role in last summer’s collective bargaining negotiations between the NFL and the NFL Players Association during his late wife Myra’s battle with cancer, has been selected as the 2012 George Halas Award winner by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
Kraft, the 43rd Halas Award winner, is the first NFL owner and first member of the Patriots franchise to receive the honor from the PFWA.
The Halas Award is given to a NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed. The award is named for Halas, a charter member (1963) of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, who was associated with the Chicago Bears and NFL from their inception in 1920 until his death in 1983 as an owner, manager, player and promoter. Halas won 324 games and six NFL titles in 40 seasons as a coach.
While Kraft’s wife was battling cancer during the spring and summer of 2012, he shuttled back and forth between his wife’s hospital bed and the NFL’s labor negotiations with her encouragement. Myra Kraft passed away on July 20, 2011, and five days later, a grieving Robert Kraft stood outside the NFLPA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., as the 10-year CBA agreement was announced.
During the announcement, Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday embraced an emotional Kraft, and said, “A special thanks to Myra Kraft, who even in her weakest moment, allowed Mr. Kraft to come and fight this out, and without him this deal does not get done. I don’t want to be climactic in any way, but he is a man who helped us save football, and we are so gracious for that. We’re gracious for his family and for the opportunity he presented to get this deal done.”
The Patriots organization dedicated the 2011 season to Myra Kraft’s memory, and New England won the AFC Championship Game over Baltimore and advanced to Super Bowl XLVI, the club’s sixth appearance in the Super Bowl since Kraft purchased the franchise in 1994.
ABOUT THE PFWA: The Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA) is the official voice of pro football writers, promoting and fighting for access to NFL personnel to best serve the public. The PFWA is made up of accredited writers who cover the NFL and the 32 teams on a daily basis. The Buffalo News’ Mark Gaughan, who covers the Buffalo Bills, is the organization’s president for 2011-13. The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter, who covers the Atlanta Falcons, is the first vice president for 2011-13. The Denver Post’s Jeff Legwold, who covers the Denver Broncos, is the second vice president for 2011-13.
GEORGE HALAS AWARD WINNERS (To the NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed): 1970 – Joe Namath (New York Jets); 1971 – Gale Sayers (Chicago Bears); 1972 – Tom Dempsey (New Orleans Saints); 1973 – Jimmy Johnson (San Francisco 49ers); 1974 – Mike Tilleman (Atlanta Falcons); 1975 – Dick Butkus (Chicago Bears); 1976 – Billy Kilmer (Washington Redskins); 1977 – Tom DeLeone (Cleveland Browns); 1978 – Pat Fischer (Washington Redskins); 1979 – Bert Jones (Baltimore Colts); 1980 – Roger Staubach (Dallas Cowboys); 1981 – Rolf Benirschke (San Diego Chargers); 1982 – Joe Klecko (New York Jets); 1983 – Eddie Lee Ivery (Green Bay Packers); 1984 – Ted Hendricks (Los Angeles Raiders); 1985 – John Stallworth (Pittsburgh Steelers); 1986 – Gary Jeter (Los Angeles Rams); 1987 – William Andrews (Atlanta Falcons); 1988 – Joe Montana (San Francisco 49ers); 1989 – Karl Nelson (New York Giants); 1990 – Tim Krumrie (Cincinnati Bengals); 1991 – Dan Hampton (Chicago Bears); 1992 – Mike Utley (Detroit Lions); 1993 – Mark Bavaro (Cleveland Browns); 1994 – Joe Montana (San Francisco 49ers); 1995 – Dan Marino (Miami Dolphins); 1996 – Larry Brown (Oakland Raiders); 1997 – Jim Harbaugh (Indianapolis Colts); 1998 – Mark Schlereth (Denver Broncos); 1999 – Dan Reeves (Atlanta Falcons); 2000 – Bryant Young (San Francisco 49ers); 2001 – Kerry Collins (New York Giants); 2002 – Garrison Hearst (San Francisco 49ers); 2003 – Robert Edwards (Miami Dolphins); 2004 – Sam Mills (Carolina Panthers); 2005 – Mark Fields (Carolina Panthers); 2006 – Tony Dungy (Indianapolis Colts); 2007 – Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints); 2008 – Kevin Everett (Buffalo Bills); 2009 – Matt Bryant (Tampa Bay Buccaneers); 2010 – Mike Zimmer (Cincinnati Bengals); 2011 – Mike Heimerdinger (Tennessee Titans); 2012 – Robert Kraft (New England Patriots).
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog