Rolling Stone’s investigative piece about the months leading up to Aaron Hernandez‘s arrest on murder charges revealed a few interesting nuggets of information this week. But it may not all be true, at least according to Patriots president Jonathan Kraft.
Kraft joined 98.5 The Sports Hub for the Patriots pregame show at Gillette Stadium on Thursday night, during which he refuted some of the claims made in the story. Kraft questioned some of the tidbits in the article, wondering if it was more of a novel than a factual report, and even called some of the stuff reported “factually inaccurate.”
“Reading the article, there were two, three, four things in particular that I saw that are completely, factually inaccurate,” Kraft said. “I don’t know the facts around the other pieces of the story, but it really makes me question it.”
One of the big storylines that Kraft took issue with on Thursday was the notion that Hernandez had flown to the NFL combine in Indianapolis this past Feburary and told head coach Bill Belichick that he felt his life was “in danger” or that Belichick gave him advice to find a safe house. Kraft said that he spoke with Belichick earlier on Thursday and the head coach fully refuted ever having any such information.
“I saw Bill today and asked, ‘Did Aaron ever tell you his life was in danger?’ He’s like, ‘Absolutely not,’” Kraft said. “If a player had told Bill that his life was in danger, Bill would say, ‘We’re calling [director of security] Mark Briggs, we’re calling the authorities.’ His response wouldn’t be, ‘We’re going to get a safe house and you’re going to lie low.’ I know Bill, that’s not what he would say.”
Kraft also noted that Belichick never threatened to cut Hernandez after the 2013 season, as the story reported, adding that it just made no sense after giving the tight end a major five-year, $37.5 million contract extension just before last season.
“I guess it’s theoretically possible. Financially, you wouldn’t do it,” Kraft said of cutting the former Patriots tight end. ”If we had known what people seem to think what we know about Aaron Hernandez, we would not have done that deal, and Bill would never threaten a player with being cut 12 months down the road. It makes no sense both in terms of how you’re interacting with the player and in terms of the cap.”
The Patriots are also refusing to pay Hernandez an $82,000 offseason workout bonus, which has brought a grievance from the NFL Players Association. Kraft said that Hernandez needed to participate in 90 percent of the offseason workouts in order to obtain the bonus, but added that he only attended 25 of 33 sessions (about 78 percent). So, the Patriots may have a case to keep that money, even if they’re forced to pay out another $3.25 million in a deferred bonus next offseason.