At last, Kraft owns up to Pats' mistake with Hernandez

At last, Kraft owns up to Pats' mistake with Hernandez
July 8, 2013, 5:30 pm
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FOUND IT! I FOUND IT!

Right here, at the very end of a Boston Heraldstory, Robert Kraft finally says what should have been said first:

This is the last thing we want. Everything we don’t want has happened. We made a mistake. We’re facing it head on. Obviously it wasn’t the correct decision. It’s sad. Very sad."

When did Kraft say this in the course of Monday’s “How were we to know . . . ?” sitdown with three hand-picked media outlets? I can’t tell you. We weren’t hand-picked.

But whenever the Patriots owner uttered those words, he did the most important thing the team could have since Aaron Hernandez got stuck with Murder One.

For a second there, it wasn’t about creating distance and saving face. It was more important than their “right-thing-to-do” statements and their jersey buyback and their leak of info that Hernandez was undefeated in drug tests. Just a simple, “Hey, man . . . we got it wrong. Mistake. Feel awful.”

Absent that simple admission, what good did the rest of it do? 

I’ve heard from a lot of people that the Patriots didn’t have to say they messed up. Cutting Aaron Hernandez and taking the cap hit was enough. Offering to have a jersey exchange “for the kids” showed where their heart was.

Besides, how were they supposed to know the guy was going to be charged with murder?

To me, that was never the point. Nobody “told you so” that Aaron Hernandez was going to be a thug’s thug before his 24th birthday and be led handcuffed and shackled into a courtroom to be arraigned for murder.

Plenty of people presumed he was a bad kid, though. Enough to drop him off some teams’ draft boards. The Patriots chose to presume otherwise. And they got it wrong. Not only did they get it wrong, they didn’t endeavor to find out if they were getting it wrong, it seems to me.

On Monday, Kraft “claimed he had no knowledge of allegations from some quarters that Hernandez ran with a rough crowd that included alleged gang members, convicted dope dealers and gun-toting thugs,” according to the Boston Herald.

Yet in a Sunday article in the Boston Globe, it was reported that the only time Hernandez acted irritated was “when it came to Hernandez’s off-field activities, he would tune out and occasionally become angry when a coach or employee suggested he stop hanging out with some of his old friends from Connecticut."

Why would the Patriots ask him to stop hanging around his old friends in Connecticut? Too many swear words? More likely, the Patriots knew some of them were no damn good. And if Kraft didn’t know that, shame on somebody because Kraft agreed to pay Hernandez $41 million before Odin Lloyd came up dead.

“How could I know . . . ?” Kraft is seemingly asking when he says, “I only know what goes on inside the building. We don’t put private eyes on people. We set up guidelines."

Hey, here’s an idea: Maybe you should have put some private eyes on people. At least the ones who are considered radioactive to some teams when they enter the league. And definitely before you re-up them.

To that end, Kraft did admit, “You can be sure we’ll be looking at all our procedures and auditing how we do things.”

Here’s something to audit. See if team security is in frequent contact with the state and local police to see if anyone’s gotten in a jam in Providence, to see if he told staties “I’m Aaron Hernandez, it’s OK!” when their friend is going 108 while crapfaced, or to see has a flophouse in Franklin. And maybe a computer geek could find the picture of Hernandez with the Glock or ferret out the details of that 2007 shooting in Gainesville that Hernandez was questioned about, or get some information about the ruptured eardrum a bar employee suffered back in 2007 when Hernandez allegedly whacked him.

Probably harder to get duped -- DUPED! -- if someone’s on that stuff.  

(The double murder in Boston last July that Hernandez was reportedly questioned about, and shooting out Alexander Bradley’s eye last February, we can understand them being blind to. The cops didn’t know anything until the Lloyd investigation started.)

Kraft was sure to point out the Patriots jersey buyback cost them $250,000. And his feet dangled from his high horse when pointing out that taking a cap hit was OK because “sometimes principle is more important than money."

But the point of the meeting -- seemingly -- was for Kraft to say he got fooled, to show how he got fooled (with anecdotes and visual aids), to say he won’t get fooled again, and to say the team made a mistake and shouldn’t have been fooled.

The Patriots didn’t know they had a menace to society in their locker room. Should they have? That’s hard to say. Given the ongoing “audit,” they must think they could have done more.

But on Monday, at least Kraft finally did what he needed to do. Said the Patriots made a mistake.