FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft addressed reporters Monday for the first time regarding Aaron Hernandez’s murder charge, saying “If this stuff is true, then I’ve been duped and our whole organization has been duped.” Kraft, who believed Hernandez was a “most likable young man,” said the Patriots “made a mistake and are facing it head on,” which includes a process in which they will “renew efforts and look at procedures.” “You can be sure we’ll be looking at our procedures and auditing how we do things,” Kraft told reporters from ESPNBoston.com, The Boston Globe and Boston Herald in a 40-minute session in his office. The session was called on Kraft’s first business day back in the United States, as he had been in Europe when he first learned of Hernandez being charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd. Kraft said Monday it was “important that our fan base hear directly from our organization” in a face-to-face setting. “My heart goes out to the Lloyd family,” he said. “I feel bad that someone connected to our organization is connected to this.” “Following Aaron’s arrest, I read a number of different accounts of how things transpired in our organization. Let me be clear: We decided the week prior to Aaron’s arrest that if Aaron was arrested in connection with the Lloyd murder case that we would cut him immediately after,” he said. “The rationale behind that decision was that if any member of the New England Patriots organization is close enough to a murder investigation to actually get arrested — whether it be for obstruction of justice or the crime itself, it is too close to an unthinkable act for that person to be part of this organization going forward.” Kraft, who repeated that the club did not know Hernandez would be facing a murder charge when it released him, said the Patriots had no knowledge of Hernandez’s actions outside of Gillette Stadium. “When he was in our building, we never saw anything where he was not polite. He was always respectful to me. We only know what’s going on inside the building. We don’t put private eyes on people,” he said. Kraft then shared a letter written by Hernandez before the 2010 draft in which Hernandez addressed his alleged use of marijuana at the University of Florida and agreed to biweekly drug tests throughout his rookie season if the Patriots drafted him. Hernandez also agreed to tie any guaranteed portion of his 2010 compensation to drug tests. In August 2012, as Hernandez entered his third NFL season, the Patriots signed him to a contract extension through 2018 that included a $12.5 million signing bonus and could have been worth almost $40 million. Kraft said he was told by coach Bill Belichick that after the extension, Hernandez had one of the best training camp performances of any player on the team. When asked whether the Patriots had Hernandez on any “team- or coach-imposed short leash,” Kraft said the team wouldn’t have signed him to that type of contract if that was the case. “It obviously wasn’t the correct decision,” he said. At the time, Hernandez donated $50,000 to the Myra Kraft Giving Back Fund. “He spoke to me about wanting to be a role model in the Hispanic community,” Kraft said. “… I believed him. … He knew how to push my buttons.” Kraft pointed to his family’s 20 years of ownership, and all the players signed by the club, in saying “by and large, the organization has done a good job.” The Patriots will absorb a $7.5 million salary cap charge in 2014 by releasing Hernandez, which will affect the club’s ability to field as competitive a team as desired. While the Patriots could have waited to release Hernandez, and perhaps not taken such a big salary cap charge, Kraft said “principle is more important than money.”
I’m just gonna say something quick on this because Jerry is going to have a bigger write-up later. But two things stuck out to me in this excellent address. The first was Kraft saying “I believed him… he knew how to push my buttons.” That stands out because I don’t know if Kraft is the same way with me, but I believe him 110%. Every single word in there I believe wholeheartedly. Maybe I’ve been brainwashed over the last decade plus of success but if there is one man I take at his word it’s Robert Kraft.
Which leads me to the next thing that stuck out, “principle is more important than money.” You could say those are just words but you can’t deny Kraft turned them into actions. Lost a lot of money to get Hernandez out of town immediately. Look at the Dallas Cowboys. Josh Brent killed a teammate and has subsequently failed two drug tests. Still employed by the Dallas Cowboys. Ray Lewis was arrested in connection to a murder investigation (the same stage where the Patriots decided to cut Hernandez), he had a long career on that Ravens roster. Ben Rothelisberger, multiple rape allegations, still a Steeler. PacMan Jones just beat up another girl and he’s still a Bengal. The list goes on and on. I think the Patriot Way is largely a media monster that we created but the fact of the matter is that no other team does it this way.