- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addressed the media for the first time following the release of Aaron Hernandez. New England cut the former tight end after Hernandez was charged with murder and five additional gun charges.
Here was Belichick’s opening statement Wednesday to the media:
"I’m going to address the situation involving Aaron Hernandez today. I felt that it was important enough to do that prior to the start of camp. It’s a sad day, really a sad day on so many levels. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim and I extend my sympathy really to everyone who has been impacted. A young man lost his life. 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 and I and other members of the organization were shocked and disappointed in what we had learned. Having someone in your organization that’s involved in a murder investigation is a terrible thing. After consultation with ownership, we acted swiftly and decisively. [Patriots owner] Robert [Kraft] and his family and I, since I got here in 2000, have always emphasized the need for our team and our players and our organization to represent the community the right away both on and off the field. We’ve worked very hard together over the past 14 years to put together a winning team that’s a pillar in the community. I agree 100 percent with the comments that Robert has already made on the situation; I stand behind those as well. This case involves an individual who happened to be a New England Patriot. We certainly do not condone unacceptable behavior and this does not in any way represent the way that the New England Patriots want to do things. As the coach of the team, I’m primarily responsible for the people that we bring into the football operation. Our players are generally highly motivated and gifted athletes. They come from very different backgrounds. They’ve met many challenges along the way and have done things to get here. Sometimes they’ve made bad or immature decisions but we try to look at every single situation on a case-by-case basis and try to do what’s best for the football team and what’s best for the franchise. Most of those decisions have worked out but some don’t. Overall, I’m proud of the hundreds of players that have come through this program but I’m personally disappointed and hurt in a situation like this. Moving forward consists of what it’s always been here: to build a winning football team, be a strong pillar in the community, be a team that our fans can be proud of. That’s what we’re here for."
This was not your typically staunch Belichick. Although guilt or innocence has yet to be determined, Belichick was genuine in his disappointment for Hernandez putting himself in this position as well as personal sorrow for the victim's family. He also admitted that the Patriots may make alterations to the way they evaluate players. That will be important for Belichick and Kraft going forward.
Belichick was wise to address the media about the Hernandez situation a couple of days before training camp. Patriots players will still face Hernandez questions this week. But both Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, the team’s top leaders, have said their part and can begin moving on from a controversial situation.