BOSTON (CBS) – New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick spoke about the arrest of Aaron Hernandez on Wednesday, calling it “a sad day on so many levels.”
“I’m going to address the situation involving Aaron Hernandez. I felt that it was important enough to do that prior to the start of camp. It’s a sad day. It’s really a sad day on so many levels,” Belichick said of the former Patriot tight end’s June arrest for murder in the death of Odin Lloyd. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim and I extend my sympathy really to everyone who’s been impacted. A young man lost his life and his family has suffered a tragic loss and there’s no way to understate that.
“When I was out of the country I learned about the ongoing criminal investigation that involved one of our players. I and other members of our organization were shocked and disappointed at what we learned,” continued Belichick. “It’s a terrible thing, and after consultation with ownership we acted swiftly and decisively. Robert (Kraft), his family and I, since I got here in 2000, have always emphasized the need to represent our organization the right way both on and off the field. We’ve worked hard over the last 14 years putting together a winning team that is a pillar in the community and I believe 100-percent on that.
“This case involves an individual who happened to be a New England Patriot. We certainly do not condone unacceptable behavior,” said Belichick. “We look at every player’s history from the moment we start discussing it, going back to his family, where he grew up, what his lifestyle was like, high school and college experiences. We evaluate his performance, his intelligence, his work ethic, his motivation, his maturity, his improvement and we try to project that into our organization on a going-forward basis.
“Unfortunately, this most recent situation with the charges that are involved is not a good one on that record,” said Belichick. “We stress high character and we stress making good decisions. We’ll continue to do this and we’ll work to do a better job of it going forward. We’ll learn from this terrible experience. (Continued…)
“I’m not trying to make the story disappear. But I respect that the judicial process, I’ve been advised not to comment on ongoing judicial proceedings,” he said. “Ultimately the judge and the jury will determine the accountability. My comments are certainly not in proportion to the unfortunate and sad situation that we have here.
“I’ve been advised to address the subject once, and it’s time for the New England Patriots to move forward,” said Belichick. “To be a winning football team, to be a pillar in the community, to be a team that we are proud of.”
Belichick said the process of evaluating players will primarily stay the same, but he and the organization will look at what they can improve. But he stressed the team’s evaluation does not end after the players are drafted or added to the team, and continue throughout their time with the organization.
“We’re in a constant evaluation in overseeing our current team and current players, we continue to evaluate our players on a regular basis at different point of the season and offseason,” he said. “I would say that any information that we get, we take it for what we feel like the value on it is. The sources vary, as you know. We’ll try to get as much information as we can and make the best decisions that we can for the football team.”
As for his players, Belichick echoed that it is time for the team to move on.
“That’s what our job is. Our goal is the same: to have a winning football team, to be a pillar in the community. That’s what our direction is, that’s what we’re going to do,” he said.
Belichick said he backed the comments made by Robert Kraft earlier this month 100-percent, and his relation with the team’s owner has not taken a hit due to the situation.
“I feel like I’ve had a strong relationship with Robert and his family since I was here in 1996, and I think it’s gotten stronger every year that I’ve been here with the Patriots,” he said. “The more we rely on each other, I feel like our relationship’s really close and continues to grow closer every year as we grow older together.”