Kraft, who returned from a vacation in Europe and Israel over the weekend, said 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,” Kraft said — according to ESPNBoston.com. “Our whole organization has been duped.”
“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,” said Kraft.
The Patriots owner said he was limited in what he could say on Monday, and was talking against the advice of his general counsel, but went into the team’s decision to release Hernandez shortly after his arrest.
“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 reiterated the Patriots did not know Hernandez was facing a murder charge when they released him. “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 also read 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. The 20-year-old 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,” Hernandez wrote. “I have set very high goals for myself in the NFL and am focused 100-percent on achieving those goals.”
The Patriots drafted Hernandez in the fourth round in 2010, and just a few years later gave him a five-year extension that could have been worth up to $40 million, with $12.5 million in guaranteed money.
“It obviously wasn’t the correct decision,” Kraft said of the contract extension. “[Hernandez] spoke to me about wanting to be a role model in the Hispanic community… I believed him.”
“He knew how to push my buttons,” Kraft said of Hernandez.
“You can be sure we’ll be looking at our procedures and auditing how we do things,” Kraft said of the Patriots moving forward.
Hernandez is currently being held without bail in the Bristol County Jail.
“My heart goes out to the Lloyd family,” said Kraft. “I feel bad that someone connected to our organization is connected to this.”