Trump welcomes the Patriots

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Donald Trump holds a jersey given to him by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (right) and head coach Bill Belichick. AFP / Saul Loeb

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Donald Trump was among friends Wednesday as he welcomed the Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots team to the White House, though the absence of star quarterback Tom Brady was glossed over.
 
Trump made no mention of Brady — a friend and golfing buddy — during his remarks outside the White House, instead focusing on his warm relationships with Patriots owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick.
 
Noting “pundits” had given the Patriots up for dead in February’s Super Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons, only to watch them clinch a last-minute victory, Trump quipped: “Good old pundits, boy, they are wrong a lot, aren’t they?”
 
He called the Patriots’ 34-28 overtime triumph “the greatest Super Bowl comeback of all time.”
 
He credited Kraft and Belichick for fostering the team’s performance to have it snatch not only the most recent title but five National Football League championships since 2002.
 
Brady was a late absentee from the visit. The high-profile player — who is married to Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen — said he had “personal family matters” to attend to.
 
A handful of other Patriots players had already opted out of the trip, some citing political differences with Trump.
 
Kraft said he was delighted to be honored by Trump for a remarkable comeback victory that he said echoed the president’s own longshot campaign “against 16 career politicians facing odds almost as long as we faced in the fourth quarter.”
 
“He persevered to become the 45th president of the United States,” Kraft said, and handed over a number 45 Patriots jersey to the Commander in Chief.
 
Belichick indicated that this trip to the White House was even more special than his previous visits.
 
“We’ve had the great privilege to be here several times. But this one, the way we were treated and the opportunities to be in the Oval Office and meet with the president, sitting inside of the White House, it’s been fabulous,” the famously taciturn coach said.
 
The ceremony itself was a decorous affair after Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski had injected a note of comedy with an impromptu visit to White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s daily briefing to journalists.
 
“Need some help?” the irrepressible Gronkowski asked a surprised Spicer. “I think I’ve got this,” Spicer replied, “But thank you. Maybe. Thanks, man. I’ll see you in a minute.”

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