FOXBOROUGH — Aaron Hernandez was arraigned on two more first-degree murder charges this week, and prosecutors allege that he committed the crimes five weeks before signing a $40 million contract extension with the Patriots in August of 2012.
But these revelations changed nothing in the mind of team owner Robert Kraft, who immediately cut ties with Hernandez last June after he was arrested for first-degree murder. Kraft, appearing Thursday at a Moms Football Safety Clinic inside the Patriots’ practice field house at Gillette Stadium, declined to comment on the new charges against Hernandez and what the team may have known about him during his three-year tenure.
“A year ago when he was arrested we cut him from the team, I made a statement. I was very clear about it,” Kraft told a large group of reporters. “If you look what I said a year ago, you’ll know how I feel.”
Kraft told the Globe last June that he felt “duped” by Hernandez.
“No one in our organization was aware of any of these kind of connections. If it’s true, I’m just shocked,” Kraft said at the time. “Our whole organization has been duped.”
Kraft was joined at the clinic by commissioner Roger Goodell, who has attended several of these NFL safety camps around the country to help promote football safety and proper technique to parents. The NFL has been under fire for its barbaric reputation, the severity and treatment of injuries and, most recently, a lawsuit from former players alleging widespread use of painkillers and medicines that led to debilitating post-career injuries and conditions.
“It’s important for us to get the right information to moms and families when they’re making decisions [about football],” Goodell said. “We believe in the values of football. The things we learned playing football growing up are things we use today.”
Goodell was also asked about any potential discipline for Colts owner Jim Irsay, who last week was officially charged with two misdemeanors following his March arrest for driving while intoxicated. Goodell said the matter is still “ongoing” and stressed the importance of waiting for all the facts to come in before taking any action. NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith cautioned that Goodell could face a “credibility gap” with players if he didn’t act swiftly on Irsay, which Goodell brushed aside.
“DeMaurice Smith talks about the process all the time. The process is important,” Goodell said. “There are several players we haven’t taken action on, either. We like to get the facts, we like to be thorough and we like to understand it. The charges were just filed last week, so I don’t believe there’s a credibility gap.”
“Don’t make judgments until we’ve had an opportunity to do what’s in the best interest of the NFL, which is getting the facts.”
Kraft was asked if owners should be held to a higher standard than players.
“We have a special responsibility to be worthy of the privilege of owning a team,” he said.