Addressing reporters for the first time Monday since Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft conceded that his organization placed too much undue trust in the former tight end.
"No one in our organization was aware of any of these kind of connections. If it's true, I'm just shocked," Kraft said, via The Boston Globe. "Our whole organization has been duped."
Calling Hernandez a "most likeable young man," Kraft painted the picture of a player who often said the right things but had trouble following through in the end. Hernandez impressed the Patriots prior to the 2010 NFL Draft by sending a letter asking for trust and agreeing to bi-weekly drug tests throughout his rookie season. Hernandez went on to convince Kraft that his goal was to be a role model in the Hispanic community.
"I believed him," Kraft said. "... He knew how to push my buttons."
Asked if Hernandez was kept on any kind of "team- or coach-imposed short leash" after signing a five-year extension in 2012, Kraft said there wouldn't have been a new contract if the Patriots deemed it necessary to "put private eyes on people."
"It obviously wasn't the correct decision," Kraft added.
Kraft confirmed that the decision was made to release Hernandez one week before his arrest if he was in any way connected to the murder investigation, deeming it "too close to an unthinkable act" to remain tied to the organization.
The Patriots have prided themselves on stocking their roster with players of high moral fiber, but they also have strategically rolled the dice on character risks such as Hernandez, Randy Moss, Corey Dillon and Albert Haynesworth. It will be interesting to see if there's a more conservative approach in the post-Hernandez era, as Kraft assured "we'll be looking at our procedures and auditing how we do things."
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