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Bill Belichick suggests Patriots will take a look at team-building approach in wake of Aaron Hernandez saga

07.24.13 at 3:19 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Do business as business is being done is a common refrain around Gillette Stadium, but that model will be challenged in the coming years as the team will look to make some changes in the way they evaluate players in the wake of what happened with Aaron Hernandez.

In his first public statement since the arrest of Hernandez on a murder charge last month, Patriots coach Bill Belichick acknowledged Wednesday that the franchise may have to take a closer look at how they operate when it comes to conducting background checks and vetting draft picks going forward.

‘€œI can tell you that we look at every players history from the moment we start discussing it, going back to his family, where he grew up, what his lifestyle was like,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œHis high school, college experiences. We evaluate his performance, his intelligence, his work ethic. His motivation, his maturity. His improvement. And we try and project that into our organization on a going forward basis.

‘€œIt combines a players personal [background], but again, it also has to project what we think and how we think he will be in our environment. Obviously, this process is far from perfect, but it’€™s one that we’€™ve used from 2000 until today, and unfortunately, this most recent situation with the charges that are involved, is not a good one on that record. But we’€™ll continue to evaluate the way we do things and the way we evaluate our players — and we do it on a regular basis. Not just at the beginning when they come in. We do it on a regular basis.’€

In the case of Hernandez, the former Florida star underwent about as complete a background check as could be done on a possible pick. According to people in and around his hometown of Bristol, Connecticut, the Patriots did their due diligence when it came to Hernandez, and there were still potential red flags that were either disregarded or not discovered. At least one failed drug test as a collegian was reported in the months leading up to his first game with the Patriots in 2010, and later alleged incidents (both as a collegian and later, as a professional) have since come to light in the wake of his recent arrest on murder charges.

‘€œPersonally, I’€™m challenged by decisions that affect the team on a daily basis. And I’€™m not perfect on that either. But I always try to do what I think is best for the football team,’€ Belichick said. ‘€œWe’€™ve spent a considerable amount of time evaluating our current players and educating them on not only football, but many other life experiences and other off-field subjects. We stress high character and we stress making good decisions, and we’€™ll continue to do this, and we’€™ll work to do a better job of it as we go forward.

On Wednesday, Belichick said that while the fundamentals of the pre-draft process will remain the same, they will look to try and ‘€œimprove the process’€

‘€œI think the process is the same as what it’€™s been for the last 14 years,’€ he said when it came to the evaluation of potential players. ‘€œI think that we’€™ll continue to try to look at ourselves in the mirror and see where we can do a better job. Maybe where we can improve the process. But I think the fundamentals of the process will remain the same.

‘€œI’€™m proud of the hundreds of players that have come though this organization. But we’€™ll continue to work hard to do a better job in every area going forward. I don’€™t know where those little things will come from, but we’€™ll continue to be diligent with them.’€

Going forward, Belichick seemed to suggest that while there would not be a blanket approach to conducting background checks on potential Patriots — whether it is through the draft or in free agency — but they would still look to fine-tune the process.

“The draft is some time away,” he said. “We have a process in place. Can it be improved? Can it be modified? It certainly can, and we’ll look at that.”

The first step may have come this week when New England appeared set to sign rookie defensive tackle John Drew, but later reversed field. It was discovered that Drew, who started his collegiate career at Duke, was later booted from the team because of an arrest involving an incident with a gun.

Belichick would not comment on whether or not the gun incident had anything to do with the Patriots taking a pass on the defensive tackle, but in the wake of what has gone on with Hernandez, it was hard not to notice the decision to not sign Drew.

‘€œI think every one is a case-by-case basis,’€ he said when asked about the possibility of taking a risk on a player in the future. ‘€œWhatever the circumstances are that come with any individual exists, you have to make a determination as to what your comfort level is with that person and the characteristics that they bring.’€

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Bill Belichick,
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