FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots were 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 show on 98.5 The Sports Hub, and lashed out at the article for having at least four inaccuracies.
“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 April to tell Bill Belichick that his life was in danger, and that Belichick recommended Hernandez rent a second apartment as a safe house — is 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.”
Belichick was asked about the claims in the article after Thursday night’s game, but the moment the words “Aaron Hernandez” came out, Belichick immediately replied, “I don’t have anything to add.”
Belichick was pressed, but the coach said, “I don’t have anything to add” before saying “Next question.”
■ 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 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 Briggs, 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 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 (30 of 33).
“You have to hit 90 percent in our contract, and Aaron didn’t hit 90 percent, in our view,” Kraft said.
Rookie defensive lineman Michael Buchanan had 2½ sacks, a forced fumble, and a pass breakup against the Giants, and credited better preparation for the best performance of his young career.
“I did a lot more preparing and getting ready for this game, so I’d definitely say that was the most comfortable I’ve felt,” the seventh-round pick said. “Just my studying habits and trying to pick up different things on guys because I knew I was going to see a number of different tackles tonight.
“Just tried to study on my own and be prepared for whatever guy is in the game.”
At 6 feet 6 inches, Buchanan has good length for taking on tackles, though as a final-round selection he’s more of a project at this point.
Veteran running back Leon Washington was signed by the Patriots first and foremost to try to help with kickoff returns, which has not been much of a factor in recent seasons.
Washington has eight career kickoff return touchdowns, including one last season with Seattle; the eight returns ties him with Josh Cribbs for most in league history.
He can still contribute on offense, but isn’t quite considered a lock for a roster spot at this point.
But Washington seems to have things in perspective.
“I broke my leg a few years ago with the Jets [in 2009] and I thought I’d never play again, so I told myself every time I’m on the field to appreciate it,” he said.
Asked if he’s nervous about making the roster, Washington said, “To be honest, I don’t worry about it. I have three beautiful boys and a wife at home, and I love football. I’m not worried.”
Washington had a 43-yard punt return in the second quarter against the Giants; he fielded only three kickoffs in the preseason, averaging 22 yards per return.
Put to the test
The Patriots had six players in for tryouts on Thursday, including two quarterbacks.
Former Findlay quarterback Clay Belton is 6-5, 232 pounds. He signed with the Dolphins after this year’s draft but was waived just a few days later. Nathan Stanley, who played at Southeastern Louisiana, is 6-5, 218 pounds. He signed with the Ravens after going undrafted, but also did not last long before being released. New England also tried out offensive linemen Chandler Burden (Kentucky) and Desmond Wynn (Rutgers), receiver Jerrell Jackson (Missouri), and running back Robbie Rouse (Fresno State). The Patriots could have been looking at the players as potential practice-squad candidates . . . Tiger Woods was on the sideline pregame and in owner Robert Kraft’s box. Woods is around for the Deutsche Bank Championship being held at TPC Boston in Norton this weekend. . . . Former Patriots Pro Bowler and team captain Larry Izzo is in his third season as the Giants’ special teams assistant coach . . . This was the ninth straight year the Patriots have faced the Giants in their final preseason game.