BOSTON (CBS) – New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft broke his silence on the Aaron Hernandez arrest on Monday, speaking with three members of the Boston media at his offices in Gillette Stadium.
The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin was one of those three reporters, and joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s The Adam Jones Show on Monday night to share Kraft’s emotions surrounding the arrest.
Kraft said that if the charges are true, he and the Patriots were ‘duped’ by Hernandez.
“It’s pretty clear that he was very saddened that a young man, 23-years-old with a $40-million NFL contract and a 7-month-old daughter, would just throw everything away like that,” Volin said of Kraft. “He’s sad for the victim and their family for the ordeal they had to go through, and he’s really saddened that someone wearing a Patriots logo that they entrusted could lead such a duplicitous life off the field and allegedly commit such a heinous act as murder.”
“He’s really trying to distance himself at this point. From everything they saw inside the building [Hernandez] was a nice, polite and respectful kid… he said they never saw this coming.”
There were red flags on Hernandez coming out of Florida, mostly for recreational marijuana use. But Hernandez wrote the Patriots a letter in the week leading up to the draft saying he was ready to clean things up.
“Hernandez, up front, acknowledge he had marijuana issues at Florida. So he wrote a letter to the Patriots six days before the draft saying ‘I have these issues and I’ll put my money where my mouth is,'” said Volin. “He was willing to take a drug test every other week during the season — they usually only get tested twice. He was willing to take up to eight drug tests, and if he failed he would return that week’s signing bonus.”
“[Hernandez] was confident he was ready to be a professional. [Kraft] showed us that letter today to show it looked like Hernandez was a kid ready for a second chance and he knew he had to clean up his act. The Patriots, the red flag on him was marijuana, not gang violence or anything like that. The fact he addressed [the marijuana issue] up front, that’s what sold them on drafting him,” he said.
Kraft stressed that Hernandez was always well-behaved while with the team, and the team gave him a five-year extension that could have been worth up to $40 million, with $12.5 million in guaranteed money, just last year.
“They felt football-wise he had done everything he needed to do. They knew he wasn’t a boy scout, but there are plenty of guys in the league that smoke weed and hang out with shady friends, who don’t commit murder,” said Volin. “Clearly they felt they had him under control when they gave him that contract last year. But Hernandez is his own man and makes his own decisions. There is only so much they’re going to monitor these guys… He made some bad decisions, and he’s the one responsible for this.”
“I reported that the Patriots, anytime anyone on the staff would mention the kids he hangs out with aren’t good for him, he would be upset. He would say those are my brothers, my family; don’t tell me what to do.”
Kraft said that going forward the team may revisit their procedures and will audit how they do business going forward. What kind of changes could be coming in the Patriots front office?
“Probably not many for this season. If a final roster move comes down to one guy being a choir boy and one guy is not, the good guy is going to win out always,” said Volin. “Maybe going forward they aren’t going to take character risks. But that’s what the draft is in the fourth through seventh round. A lot of the times there is guys with talent, but you’re not sure how long you can keep them eligible — whether its a four-game suspension for a drug test or they have a knack for doing stuff off the field. The draft is full of guys like that.”
“They took a gamble on Aaron Hernandez and obviously they lost big time. But no one should have thought the kid was going to be capable of murder. That’s so far off the scope of normal NFL off-field trouble incidents,” said Volin. “He said they’d audit everything they do, but he also said they’ve had 2000 players come and go in his 20 years as owners, and they’ve done a pretty good job picking them.”