On Wednesday the issue was emphatically resolved, and Belichick’s press conference at Gillette Stadium was barely seconds old before the coach removed any doubt.
“I’m going to address the situation involving Aaron Hernandez today. I felt like it was important do that prior to the start of camp,” the coach said as he opened with a detailed statement that spoke volumes on his views.
“It’s a sad day. It’s really a sad day on so many levels. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim. I extend my sympathy to everyone who was impacted. A young man lost his life and his family suffered a tragic loss.”
Belichick expressed a great deal of remorse throughout the 22-minute press conference and did so while acknowledging the gravity of the situation. At one point during a question regarding how much he’s discussed Hernandez with his family he pointed out that “this isn’t football. This is real life.”
The coach explained that he was out of the country when news first broke of the tight end’s involvement in the investigation of the murder of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old Boston man who was gunned down in June.
“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 the organization involved in a murder investigation. After consultation with ownership we acted swiftly and decisively,” Belichick said.
“Robert and his family and I since I got here in 2000 have always emphasized the need for our team to represent the community the right way both on and off the field. We’ve worked very hard together over the last 14 years to put together a winning team on the field and in the community. And I agree 100 percent with that.”
As Belichick continued his opening statement, the level of his remorse and disappointment continued to show.
“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,” he said.
“As the coach of the team, I’m primarily responsible for people we bring into the football operations. Our players are generally highly motivated and gifted athletes. They come from very different backgrounds with many challenges along the way. And they’ve done things to get here. Sometimes they’ve made bad and immature decisions. But we try to look at every single situation on a case-by-case basis and we try to do what’s best for the football team and what’s best for the franchise. Most of those decisions have worked out. Some don’t. Overall I’m proud of the hundreds of players that have come through this program.
“I’m personally disappointed and hurt in a situation like this. 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.”
Belichick explained that he could not comment on the ongoing investigation and chose not to answer every question that came his way following the opening remarks as a result. However, he was far more forthcoming with his answers than normal and overall did a terrific job of relaying his feelings and the severity of the situation.
The coach was asked several times about the team’s scouting methods and whether or not Hernandez’ situation would alter the way things are done moving forward. He said the team is always looking at the way it evaluates players and will continue to do so. Belichick explained that the team conducts extensive research on a player’s family situation, where he grew up, his lifestyle, work ethic and maturity and other factors.
“We’ll learn from this terrible experience,” Belichick said. “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, that set a great example of being a professional and being a solid representative of this team and the community,” he said.
With training camp set to open on Friday, Belichick closed the opening statement by explaining that it was time to move forward.
“I’m not trying to make the story disappear. I’ve been advised to address the subject once, and it’s time for the New England Patriots to move forward,” he said. “Moving forward consists of what it’s always been – build a winning football team, be a strong pillar in the community and be a team that our fans can be proud of.”
By addressing the situation in such a classy and professional manner, that task figures to be a bit easier.