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For the first time since the Aaron Hernandez murder investigation began, Patriots owner Robert Kraft has finally broken his silence and addressed members of the media on Monday.
Kraft, one of the most respected owners in the NFL, has come under fire lately for the risk he took on Hernandez at the NFL draft, despite all the red flags about the former tight end’s questionable character coming out of college including failed drug tests and admitted drug use.
Kraft, who had been in Europe and advised not to speak on the on-going criminal investigation, finally sat down with reporters from ESPNBoston.com, The Boston Globe and Boston Herald on Monday to share his thoughts on the former Patriot and clear the air. He started off by reading the following statement:
“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.”
When asked about the murder charge against Hernandez, Kraft responded, “If this stuff is true, then I’ve been duped and our whole organization has been duped.” Mr. Kraft, welcome to the club. That is how most of New England is feeling right now.
Members of the media have also been critical of Kraft’s lack of response to the Hernandez situation and some went as far as blaming him and the organization for Hernandez’s off-the-field antics. Kraft is taking some responsibility acknowledging the Patriots “made a mistake and are facing it head on.” The team has already been taking proactive steps to erase all memory of the former tight end, including releasing Hernandez hours after his arrest and removing all his jerseys and memorabilia from their shop. He also explained the organization is re-evaluating their scouting process to “renew efforts and look at procedures” for the future.
Aside from drafting Hernandez, many argue the Patriot’s biggest mistake was signing Hernandez to a contract extension worth $40 million last summer. Kraft justified the extension by saying “Hernandez had one of the best training camp performances of any player on the team.” He also spoke only of positive interactions with Hernandez calling the former tight end a “most likable young man” who was always polite and respectful. Kraft remained adamant he was unaware of what Hernandez was doing once he left the stadium saying “we don’t put private eyes on people,” which in completely understandable. Kraft took a chance on a young man and unfortunately, Hernandez made him look like a fool.
Kraft must feel duped by Hernandez because Hernandez knew how to push Kraft’s buttons. Hernandez spoke of how he wanted to become a role model for the Hispanic community and even gave back money to charity after his extension. Hernandez was using the Patriot’s way values against Kraft and unfortunately, Kraft ate it all up.
It’s easy to see how Kraft could have been convinced to draft and invest in Hernandez after reading the letter Hernandez wrote so eloquently and smoothly to the Patriots owner before the draft. Hernandez wrote all the right things and took accountability for all his actions. Like Kraft said, “He put his money where he mouth is” and connected his salary to a potential failed drug test that Hernandez agreed to take on a bi-weekly basis. It seemed like a win win situation for the Patriots at the time and it worked out for them for three seasons. It is sad this is the way things are ending but Kraft has been doing everything he can to correct a mistake he made three years ago by placing his faith in the wrong person.