Sunday, April 20, 2014
By Ron Borges / Boston Herald
(Continued from page 1)
Robert Kraft, New England Patriots owner and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Kraft Group, arrives at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, Tuesday, July 9, 2012.
The Associated Press
“In closing,” Hernandez continued, “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.”
Kraft admittedly was impressed with the letter and grew to like Hernandez personally as well as professionally. He claimed the tight end showed no sign of disrespect toward him or the organization while in Foxborough. And according to Belichick, Hernandez had his best training camp following the $40 million extension. He already had received $9.5 million of his $12.5 million signing bonus in cash.
“I remember some players we gave some money to and they dogged it for a year or two,” Kraft said.
“He had the best camp of any player. We made a business decision. We paid for performance. Obviously it wasn’t the correct decision. We’re just sorry for what the Lloyd family has to go through. They lost a son, a brother. It’s sad. I don’t understand why things happen like that. I got duped, to be honest. He knew how to push my buttons.”
Kraft claimed he had no knowledge of allegations from some quarters that Hernandez ran with a rough crowd that included alleged gang members, convicted dope dealers and gun-toting thugs.
“When he was in our building, we never saw anything where he was not polite,” Kraft said. “He was always respectful, always polite, but I only know what goes on inside the building. We don’t put private eyes on people. We set up guidelines.”
Whatever safety net the Pats had in place did not caution them about Hernandez, Kraft admitted. The owner added that Hernandez remains innocent until proven guilty, but he also conceded he would have to review how the team vets its players in the future.
“You can be sure we’ll be looking at all our procedures and auditing how we do things,” Kraft said. “I feel bad someone in our organization could potentially be tied to this. If it’s true, I’m just shocked.”
Kraft insisted his organization did not know what charges would be leveled at Hernandez and said “to the best of my knowledge” he was unaware of Hernandez being on any kind of short leash from Belichick.
“By and large, our organization has done a pretty good job,” he said. “But if this is true, it’s horrible.”
Kraft said the decision to release Hernandez immediately would bring about a $7.5 million cap hit in 2014. That wasn’t a factor in his decision because “sometimes principle is more important than money.”
Case in point was the decision to run a two-day jersey exchange in which fans could swap their Hernandez game shirts for other players’ at the Gillette Stadium pro shop.
Kraft said that decision cost the team more than $250,000 but was an effort to allow parents to deal positively with the questions children who once looked up to Hernandez might have. He said the jerseys collected would be recycled in some way, but there will be no effort to ban anyone from the stadium who might wear one next season, according to a team spokesman.
“This is the last thing we want,” Kraft said of the entire situation. “Everything we don’t want has happened. We made a mistake. We’re facing it head on. Obviously it wasn’t the correct decision. It’s sad. Very sad.”