Robert Kraft on Aaron Hernandez: ‘Our whole organization has been duped’
|07.08.13 at 4:34 pm ET|
Patriots owner Robert Kraft made his first comments on the arrest of Aaron Hernandez and the team’s decision to release the former tight end target of Tom Brady.
Kraft returned from a vacation in Europe and Israel over the weekend and told ESPNBoston.com, the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe that he was “shocked” when Hernandez was arrested and charged with murder in the death of Odin Lloyd last month.
“No one in our organization was aware of any of these kind of connections. If it’s true, I’m just shocked. Our whole organization has been duped.” Kraft said.
“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.”
The Patriots owner said that he was talking against the advice of his general counsel, but offered insight into the team’s decision to release Hernandez.
“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,” said Kraft, who said the team was not aware of the murder charge when they released him.
Hernandez was being investigated in connection with the death of Odin Lloyd at the time of the release but had not been formally charged.
“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 said.
Kraft released the contents of a letter Hernandez wrote to Nick Caserio, New England’s director of player personnel, before the 2010 draft that addressed his alleged use of marijuana at the University of Florida. Hernandez agreed to bi-weekly drug tests throughout his rookie season if the Patriots drafted him, and also agreed to give any guaranteed portion of his 2010 compensation to the drug tests.
“I ask you to trust me when I say you have absolutely nothing to worry about when it comes to me and the use of recreational drugs. I have set very high goals for myself in the NFL and am focused 100-percent on achieving those goals,” Hernandez wrote in the correspondence.
The Patriots drafted Hernandez in the fourth round in 2010. After three productive seasons in New England, the Patriots made the decision to lock up he and Rob Gronkowski as tight end weapons of the future, giving Hernandez a five-year extension worth as much as $40 million, with $12.5 million in guaranteed money.
“It obviously wasn’t the correct decision,” Kraft said in hindsight. ”[Hernandez] spoke to me about wanting to be a role model in the Hispanic community… I believed him.”
What have Kraft and the Patriots learned from this ordeal?
“He knew how to push my buttons. You can be sure we’ll be looking at our procedures and auditing how we do things.”
The full text of Robert Kraft’s statement to reporters from ESPNBoston.com, the Boston Globe and Boston Herald at his Gillette Stadium office on Monday:
“I want to thank each of you for coming here today. Today is my first business day back in the country since Aaron’s arrest; I arrived back in the country on Saturday. I want to establish up front that I have to be limited in what I talk about today as there is an ongoing criminal investigation, as well as other potential civil proceedings. In regards to that, I have been advised by my General Counsel to limit the subject matter of our discussion today. That being said, I do think it is important that our fan base hear directly from our organization. Also, out of respect to each of you and the organizations you represent, I wanted to do this face to face and not over the phone from Europe.
“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. 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.”
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