The complete transcript of the press conference held by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on Wednesday. (Courtesy of the new England Patriots)
BB: 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. 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. As far as the whole process goes, I can tell you that we look at every player’s history from the moment we start discussing it, going back to his family, where he grew up, what his lifestyle was like, high school, college experiences. We evaluate his performance, his intelligence, his work ethic, his motivation, his maturity, his improvement and we try to project that into our organization on a going forward basis. It combines a player’s personal history, but again it also has to project what we think and how we think he will be in our environment. Obviously, this process is far from perfect, but it’s one that we’ve used from 2000 until today. Unfortunately this most recent situation with the charges are involved is not a good one on that record. We’ll continue to evaluate the way we do things and the way we evaluate our players and we do it on a regular basis, not just at the beginning when they come in; we do it on a regular basis. Personally, I’m challenged by decisions that affect the team on a daily basis and I’m not perfect on that either but I always try to do what I think is best for the football team. We spent a considerable amount of time evaluating our current players and educating them on not only football, but many other life experiences and off-field subjects. We stress high character and we stress making good decisions. We’ll continue to do this and we’ll work to do a better job of it as we go forward. We’ll learn from this terrible experience that we’ve had. We’ll become a better team from the lessons that we’ve learned. We have so many players on this team that work hard, that do the right thing and that set a great example of being a professional and being a solid representative of this team and the community. I know that there are a lot of questions, fair questions, about this subject and related subjects. I’m not trying to make the story disappear but I respect the judicial process and been advised not to comment on on-going legal proceedings. I’m advising our players to do the same thing. We have a system in justice that deals with criminal charges and ultimately the judge or the jury will determine the accountability. My comments are certainly not in proportion to the unfortunate and sad situation that we have here. I’ve been advised to address the subject once and it’s time for the New England Patriots to move forward. 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.
Q: Bob Kraft has said he feels duped by Aaron Hernandez. Do you personally feel duped?
BB: I’ll refrain from making any more comments on any ongoing people involved in the judicial process.
Q: You’re not in the season yet. Wouldn’t this be the time to do it?
BB: I can’t do it.
Q: What were some of the red flags that you had about Aaron Hernandez prior to drafting him? Why did you decide it was OK to select him?
BB: I’m not going to be able to talk about the people who are involved specifically in any ongoing judicial process. We do the same thing with all our players. We take a look, as I said, at their personal family life, we look at the history of what they’ve done in high school and college. In short, we accumulate all the information that we can accumulate, wherever that information comes from, and try to analyze it and make the best decision we can make for our football team on a case-by-case basis. It’s the same for every single player; the process is the same.
Q: How do you anticipate this affecting the way that you do business going forward, both when it comes to monitoring the guys already on the team and when it comes to considering guys who could be added to it?
BB: I think the process is the same as what it’s been for the last 14 years. I think that we’ll continue to try to look at ourselves in the mirror and see where we can do a better job, maybe where we can improve the process. But I think the fundamentals of the process will remain the same. Again, I’m proud of the hundreds of players that have come through this organization. But we’ll continue to work hard to do a better job in every area going forward. I don’t know where those little things will come from but we’ll continue to be diligent on them.
Q: Does this raise the bar as far as draftees and free agents? Are you a little less apt to take risks going forward?