A few hours after that call, Don Lowery, the Patriots' director of community and public relations, saw a reporter's fax of an SI clipping (SCORECARD, March IS) that detailed Peter's crude, drunken and violent behavior on the night of the Mues incident. Lowery forwarded a copy to Kraft. "I got upset that we didn't know this," Kraft says. "I initiated a thorough investigation."
Before the draft the Patriots had sent a representative to NFL offices in New York City to pore over the NFL Security files of several prospects, a source close to the team says, but Peter's file did not mention some incidents that had been widely publicized. Why? A source close to NFL Security says the controversial investigation of University of Miami defensive tackle Warren Sapp last year, in which Sapp's file contained inaccurate reports of positive drug-test results, led to a reduction of information made available to teams this year. The Patriots likely received accurate but incomplete information because NFL Security dossiers no longer list arrest citations that don't result in convictions. But even if Peter's file lacked information that had been widely published by news media and would have turned up in the most cursory background check, it still should have at least included details of the four convictions.
"Part of the fault lies with our investigation," says Kraft. "But part lies with NFL Security, and NFL Security people have called to tell me they were sorry." The NFL had no comment on Kraft's report of an apology. As a result of the debacle over Peter, however, the Patriots will likely ask the league for a compensatory fifth-round pick in '97.
"We stand for certain principles, and we're trying to do things certain ways," said Kraft, who has owned the Patriots since February 1994. "Once we knew we had made a mistake, we decided we would not cover it up."
Fellow NFL team personnel men weren't eager to point fingers at Grier and Armey—any number of them might have chosen Peter later in the draft—but most agreed the two clearly failed their boss. After all, it was Kraft who had repeatedly said that under no circumstances would he allow Grier to use the Pats' seventh overall pick on Peter's vaunted Nebraska teammate, running back Lawrence Phillips, whose resume was tainted by a highly publicized assault against a former girlfriend last fall. "I'd have to answer to my wife," Kraft said on the first day of the draft.
Thorough background checks on prospective draftees are routine, and for Grier and Armey to have put Peter on their board without flagging him as a potential problem is incomprehensible. Nevertheless, Kraft said the two men still have his confidence. But, he added, "it's the last time our organization will ever flirt with someone like [Peter]—if our people want to keep their jobs."
Peter, meanwhile, was left hoping that some NFL team would give him a job. "I'm not this Attila the Hun, this barbarian that people think I am," he said. "All I want is a shot to play."
Wherever he ends up, Christian Peter will arrive with a lot of baggage.