Robert Kraft broke his silence on Monday, discussing Aaron Hernandez for the first time since his arrest and subsequent release from the team on June 26.
Kraft, who has been off vacationing in Europe for the past few weeks, returned to work at Gillette Stadium on Monday and decided it was finally time to address the situation. The normally reserved owner opened up about the the former Patriots tight end, their relationship and his feelings on the pending murder charges Hernandez is facing. Like nearly everyone else to learn of Hernandez’s connection, Kraft was stunned.
“No one in our organization was aware of any of these kind of connections. If it’s true, I’m just shocked,” Kraft said, according to the Boston Globe. “If this stuff is true, then I’ve been duped and our whole organization has been duped.”
Kraft revealed he was limited in what he could say because of an ongoing investigation and civil proceedings. He also admitted that he had been advised by his legal counsel against discussing the matter publicly, but said he felt the organization needed to address it. He then confirmed, as was widely reported, that the Patriots had decided ahead of time to cut Hernandez if he was arrested.
“Let me be clear, we decided the week prior to Aaron’s arrest that if Aaron was arrested in connection with the [Odin] Lloyd murder case that we would cut him immediately after,” Kraft 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.”
The Patriots signed Hernandez to a long-term contract extension last offseason, with Kraft signing off on the deal and inviting him to be a part of the organization long-term. Kraft says the organization believed inking Hernandez long-term was the right move last offseason and even admitted that he bought into the tight end’s sales pitch time and again.
“When he was in this building, I was never exposed to anything where he was not positive. He was always polite, respectful,” Kraft said. “He wanted to be a role model for the Hispanic community. He said that when he signed his contract. He said, ‘You gave me a second chance,’ and I believed him.”
Looking back at taking a chance on Hernandez not once but twice, Kraft openly admits the team was wrong.
“It obviously wasn’t the correct decision,” Kraft said.
Kraft wouldn’t say whether the Patriots would change their approach to choosing players in the future, but he did offer up a hint, saying “you can be sure we’ll be looking at our procedures and auditing how we do things.”