by Fitzgerald Cecilio
On his first business day back in the United States, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft broke his silence regarding the murder charge filed against his former tight end Aaron Hernandez.
"If this stuff is true, then I've been duped and our whole organization has been duped," said Kraft, who was in Europe when he first learned of Hernandez being charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd.
Kraft called a face-to-face session with the media, saying it was "important that our fan base hear directly from our organization".
"My heart goes out to the Lloyd family," Kraft said. "I feel bad that someone connected to our organization is connected to this."
Kraft reiterated that the club did not know Hernandez would be facing a murder charge when the Patriots released their 2010 fourth round pick.
"Let me be clear. We decided the week prior to Aaron's arrest that if Aaron was arrested in connection with the Lloyd murder case that we would cut him immediately after," Kraft said.
He added that the Patriots had no knowledge of Hernandez's actions outside of Gillette Stadium.
"When he was in our building, we never saw anything where he was not polite. He was always respectful to me. We only know what's going on inside the building. We don't put private eyes on people," Kraft explained.
Kraft also shared a letter written by Hernandez before the 2010 draft in which the tight end addressed his alleged use of marijuana at the University of Florida and agreed to biweekly drug tests throughout his rookie season if the Patriots drafted him.
In the letter, Hernandez also agreed to tie any guaranteed portion of his 2010 compensation to drug tests.
In August 2012, as Hernandez entered his third NFL season, the Patriots signed him to a contract extension through 2018 that included a $12.5 million signing bonus and could have been worth almost $40 million.
After signing the extension, coach Bill Belichick told Kraft that Hernandez had one of the best training camp performances of any player on the team.
The Patriots will absorb a $7.5 million salary cap charge in 2014 by releasing Hernandez, which will affect the club's ability to field as competitive a team as desired.
However, Kraft said principle is more important than money.