FOXBORO - Patriots owner Robert Kraft now has his historic tight ends sewn up practically through the end of the decade. And he likes that fact."We're privileged to have two of the best young players on this team we know are gonna be here for quite some time," Kraft said after signing Aaron Hernandez to a five-year extension on Monday. Earlier this offseason, the team signed Rob Gronkowski to a six-year deal in excess of 50 million. Kraft took a verbal victory lap over the fact the Patriots got the two players at lower costs in the 2010 draft. Gronkowski was a second-rounder who dropped because of back issues. Hernandez was a fourth-rounder who dropped because of failed drug tests at Florida. "We know that both players had issues coming out so where we drafted them was really not indicative of how good they really are and both of them have really shined here," Kraft said. Kraft revealed that Hernandez made a 50,000 contribution to the Myra Kraft Giving Back Fund after agreeing to his deal. "I said, 'Aaron you don't have to do this.' He said, 'It makes me feel good and I want to do it,' " Kraft recounted."That makes me feel good because part of what we learned early on, we have a lot of young men who come into this business and come from humble financial homes and part of what we've tried is make them understand is that the psychic income involved in giving back your time and your resources." Kraft opined that it's incumbent on the team to shepherd players into affluence. "To flip the switch from living modestly to all of a sudden having a lot of income, I think we have to work very hard to help these young men adjust to that," Kraft said. "I just think he's a super player and a first-class guy. Some people might see all the tattoos on him and think ...10 years ago, I was in that class (and I would) think, 'Wow.' But this guy's a good guy."Meanwhile, with the season looming and the league and its officials still at an impasse, it appears the season will open with replacement officials. Asked about the threat this poses to the integrity of the game, "Yeah, well. I'm gonna let the league office deal with that."Kraft was asked why, given the time, effort and billions expended during the past few years to get a new CBA in place, this reality would be tolerated. "I'm sure you're intelligent to know you don't make judgments until you know all the facts and all the sides," Kraft admitted."So I'm gonna respectfully stay out of that issue.
The Patriots enter Phase Three of their offseason training activities on Tuesday with the first of three OTA practices this week at Gillette Stadium.