FOXBOROUGH — Tom Brady stressed on Thursday that he is moving on, more than a month after the criminal investigation of former teammate Aaron Hernandez, and he wants the rest of the Patriots to do the same.
The Patriots had Brady and the three defensive captains from last season — Jerod Mayo, Devin McCourty, and Vince Wilfork — meet with reporters in advance of the team’s first official training camp practice on Friday. The four players were asked almost exclusively about Hernandez, who has been formally charged in the death of Odin Lloyd.
Brady was not particularly open to the idea of discussing his emotions when he learned that a player he’d shared a locker room with for more than three years was involved in a murder investigation.
“How long ago was that — six weeks ago?” Brady said. “Yeah, I think everyone had a certain range of emotions, whatever they might have been, but those are really personal, and I dealt with them, and at some point you have to move forward and I think we, as a team, are doing that.
“The best part is really coming out to start the football season and talk about the challenges we have ahead of us, and certainly it’s been a challenging offseason but we’re going to try to move forward as best we know how.”
Team owner Robert Kraft spoke with a small group of reporters a couple of weeks ago about the Hernandez situation, and coach Bill Belichick addressed it head-on Wednesday afternoon.
Belichick will advise his players on how to deal with things, and Brady knows he can play a role as well.
“It’s a real-life situation that everyone has had to deal with, so — Coach, those team meetings that we have, he always gives us a lot of information and that’s part of his role as a head coach,” Brady said. “As captains of the team, we take that information and we try to do with it as we please and I think we’re just excited to be here, and really it’s a fresh start for all of us.
“I know these last six weeks have been distracting for a lot of people, but I’d say for this team, we’re trying to focus on our job and what we have to do to win football games. Certainly it’s a very tragic thing that happened, someone loses their life, but all those things were out of the players’ control here, we’re not really part of that situation, so I don’t think it does a lot for us to get too much involved.”
Kraft has said he felt “duped” by Hernandez; after signing his contract extension last August, the tight end professed to have changed because of the influence of the “Patriot Way,” and he told Kraft he wanted to be a role model for the Hispanic community. He also insisted on making a $50,000 donation to the Myra H. Kraft Giving Back Fund to show his appreciation.
Brady was asked if he felt fooled by Hernandez.
He skirted the question by responding that as football players, you have a relationship within the facility walls, and “then people have their own life. I typically have great relationships with all of my teammates, so I’m hopefully pretty easy to get along with.”
Later, Brady said, “You have friends, you have your kids — how well do you know your own kids? You try to do the best you can do but everyone is ultimately accountable for their own decision-making and the words that come out of our mouths and for the actions that take part.”
As to whether Hernandez fit in the locker room — multiple league sources have said Hernandez spent no time with his teammates away from Gillette Stadium — Brady said, “I don’t think it matters at this point.”
The quarterback, now entering his 14th season, does not want any potential distraction brought on by the Hernandez situation to become an excuse for the season.
“The fate of our season is going to be determined by the guys in the locker room and hopefully nothing else,” he said. “That’s something we’ve always made a strong commitment to. You talk about the ‘Patriot Way’ and to me that means mental toughness and to me it means dealing with different situations and adversities over the course of a season and offseason and how you can put those things behind you and focus on your job.”
Brady, the team’s other two quarterbacks, and the rookies have been in Foxborough since Monday, but Thursday was the first day the entire team was on hand. Brady indicated that Belichick had not yet addressed the team.
“We’ve been away from each other pretty much this whole time; today is really the first day that everyone has been together,” Brady said. “Everyone really takes the lead from Coach Belichick and Mr. Kraft. I know they’ve commented on how they feel, I think we as players should follow their lead, hopefully we can go out and do something our community can really be proud of.”
As Belichick did on Wednesday, Brady stressed more than once that there have been plenty of Patriots players over the years who have been standouts on and off the field.
“We’ve had such great examples over the years, whether it was Tedy Bruschi or Mike Vrabel or Troy Brown or Kevin Faulk, guys who have really worn this uniform and worn it well,” he said. “Not only have we been successful on the field, but guys have committed so much of their time to doing things that are good in the community, and this obviously is not a time where those things are recognized because there’s another situation to deal with, but I think I’m still really proud of all those guys that have worn the uniform and worn it well and hopefully gone out and tried to make the city of Boston, all of New England proud of what we do on and off the field.”
And while the Patriot Way has taken its share of criticism in light of Hernandez’s status, Brady has no doubt it still exists.
“To win football games and represent the community? No question,” he said. “I think that’s what we show up here every day for.”