Bob Kraft Says Aaron Hernandez Duped Him

The Patriots owner discussed the Hernandez situation with reporters for the first time.

On his first business day back from an extended vacation, Patriots owner Robert Kraft spoke at length with reporters from the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, and ESPN Boston, about Aaron Hernandez, and he was not putting a positive spin on things. He sounds both contrite and betrayed.

“If this stuff is true, then I’ve been duped and our whole organization has been duped,” he told the reporters. While he admitted that extending Hernandez’s contract obviously looks like a mistake now, he attempted to explain how, from the team’s point of view, Hernandez had seemed like a good bet. He showed the reporters a letter Hernandez wrote before he was drafted, in which the young player took responsibility for his positive drug tests for marijuana, saying he’d return the team’s money if he tested positive and received a suspension. According to the Globe, the letter read:

My point is simple – if I fail a drug test, I do not deserve that portion of the money,” Hernandez wrote. “I realize this offer is somewhat unorthodox, but it is also the only way I could think of to let you know how serious I am about reaching my potential in the NFL.”

Kraft said the letter convinced them to overlook his potential character problems—it sounds as if they weren’t aware of any issues that extended beyond the recreational drug use, though as reporters sift through Hernandez’s college years, there have been warning signs that he may have been involved in more violent stuff.  Nevertheless, Kraft said Hernandez’s behavior within the organization gave no reason to worry about extending his contract.

Apparently, over 2,500 people opted to schlep out to Foxborough to exchange their Aaron Hernandez jerseys for a free replacement this weekend, which cost the Patriots $250,000. They’ve also been left with a $7.5 million salary cap charge after cutting Hernandez. While those decisions have been picked over by the sports punditry world—Why did they release him so quickly? Does this undercut the mythical ‘Patriots Way’? Can they erase Aaron Hernandez from our memory?—Kraft tried to portray the actions as matters of principal, not business. “It was principle, over money or cap or anything else,” Kraft said. We’ll see what the pundits have to say about that.