New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has broken his silence on former tight end Aaron Hernandez, saying that he and the organization were "duped" if the allegations surrounding Hernandez's role in the murder of Odin Lloyd are true.
As reported by Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, Kraft took about 40 minutes on Monday to speak out about his former offensive star. Kraft was in Europe when Hernandez was charged with Lloyd's murder, and Monday was his first day back in the United States.
Kraft, reportedly speaking against the advice of a general counsel, had this to say about the decisions his franchise has made since the accusations first came to light:
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.
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.
New England followed through on that preconceived plan by releasing Hernandez at the time of his arrest, per the team's official website.
According to Kraft (via Reiss), the Patriots had no idea Hernandez was allegedly living a double life outside of his time with the team:
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.
The 72-year-old Kraft also told reporters in attendance on Monday that Hernandez sent a letter to the Patriots before the 2010 NFL draft began. Ben Volin of The Boston Globe had a copy of that text in its entirety shortly after Kraft's Monday interview.
New England drafted Hernandez in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, choosing to ignore character concerns because of actions like the letter. As Kraft said in the interview, "He knew how to push my buttons."
Urban Meyer, Hernandez's head coach at Florida, also spoke out about his former star over the weekend. In a text to Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch, Meyer responded to critics of his treatment of Hernandez at Florida by saying that he and the entire Gators family "worked very hard to mentor and guide him."
Hernandez was in the headlines again on Saturday, but this time, it was for a jersey promotion that the Patriots had in light of his recent arrest.
As reported by Marc Sessler of NFL.com, the Patriots allowed fans to bring their No. 81 Aaron Hernandez jerseys to Gillette Stadium and exchange them for a different jersey of equal or lesser value.
The latest surrounding Hernandez's criminal trial came from Kevin Manahan of USA Today, who reported on Monday that the district attorney in charge of the case has yet to officially name Hernandez as the accused shooter in Lloyd's murder.