The Patriots remained silent on Wednesday after Rolling Stone magazine released an article with several startling revelations about Aaron Hernandez and how the team helped him deal with his off-field problems.
But team president Jonathan Kraft finally spoke out on Thursday during the team’s pregame radio show on 98.5 FM The Sports Hub, and lashed out at the article for having at least four inaccuracies, which he pointed out during the interview.
“Reading the article, there were two, three, four things in particular that I saw that are completely, factually inaccurate,” Kraft said. “I don’t know the facts around the other pieces of the story, but it really makes me question it.”
Among the things Kraft pointed out:
- He said one of the juiciest revelations – that Hernandez flew to Indianapolis this past April to tell Bill Belichick that his life was in danger, and that Belichick recommended that Hernandez rent a second apartment as a safe house – is completely false.
“I saw Bill today, and asked, ‘Did Aaron ever tell you his life was in danger?’ He’s like, ‘Absolutely not,’” Kraft said. “If a player had told Bill that his life was in danger, Bill would say, ‘We’re calling (security chief) Mark Briggs, we’re calling the authorities.’ His response wouldn’t be, ‘We’re going to get a safe house and you’re going to lie low.’ I know Bill, that’s not what he would say.”
- Kraft also said that Belichick never threatened to cut Hernandez at the end of the 2013 season if he had slipped up one more time, as the story said.
Hernandez had a contract that guaranteed him another $4.3 million in 2014, and the team would have taken significant salary cap penalties (as it is, Hernandez counts $7.5 million next year even after being cut).
“I guess it’s theoretically possible. Financially, you wouldn’t do it,” Kraft said. “If we had known what people seem to think what we know about Aaron Hernandez, we would not have done that deal, and Bill would never threaten a player with being cut 12 months down the road. It makes no sense both in terms of how you’re interacting with the player and in terms of the cap.”
- Kraft pointed out that former security officer Frank Mendes was not the team’s chief of security, as was portrayed in the story. He also defended Mark Briggs, the current director of security who came on the job in January 2001 after running security at the Sydney Olympics.
The story intimated that Briggs didn’t have ties to the local police authorities and wasn’t able to find inside information on Hernandez.
“Mark spends a tremendous amount of time talking to police forces, the FBI, the CIA, because I see them in here,” Kraft said. “He understands crowds and he understands terrorism and he’s been in combat and in difficult situations. He’s the right guy to run a venue in today’s world.”
- Kraft said the story was wrong in stating that Hernandez skipped offseason workouts to be in California. In the process, he addressed the $82,000 workout bonus that the team is refusing to pay Hernandez, prompting the NFL Players Association to file a grievance against the team this week.
Kraft said Hernandez attended 25 of the Patriots’ 33 organized team activities between April and June, but that the threshold for Hernandez to collect the bonus was 90 percent of practices (30 of 33).
“You have to hit 90 percent in our contract, and Aaron didn’t hit 90 percent, in our view,” Kraft said.