As the national media storm continues to swirl around the Aaron Hernandez case, one man has been noticeably silent: Bill Belichick. But Wednesday, the New England Patriots head coach ended his silence with a press conference at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., as the team prepares to start training camp for the 2013 season.
Speaking to reporters, Belichick said he was “disappointed” and “hurt” by the situation, according to Fox Sports.
"It's really a sad day on so many levels,” Belichick stated. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim and I extend my sympathy really to everyone who has been impacted. A young man lost his life and his family has suffered a tragic loss and there is no way to understate that."
Belichick also touched on the Patriots’ player evaluation process, which has been under scrutiny since former Patriots tight end Hernandez was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the death of semi-pro player Odin Lloyd.
"We look at every player’s history," Belichick said. "We evaluate his performance, intelligence, work ethic, motivation, maturity, improvement. … Obviously, this process is far from perfect, but it’s the one we’ve used from 2000 until today. Unfortunately, this most recent situation, with the charges that are involved, is not a good one on that record."
"As the coach of the team, I'm primarily responsible for the people we bring into the football operation," Belichick added. "Our players are generally highly motivated and gifted athletes that come from very different backgrounds. They met many challenges along the way and have done things to get here. Sometimes they have made bad or immature decisions, but we try to look at every situation on a case-by-case basis and try to do what's best for the football team and what's best for the franchise."
Belichick told reporters that he was first informed of the allegations against Hernandez while he was out of the country. “I and other members of the organization were shocked and disappointed in what we had learned,” he said. “Having someone in your organization that's involved in a murder investigation is a terrible thing."
Belichick did not answer specific questions about the case and wouldn't say whether or not he had been in contact with Hernandez since his June 26 arrest. "I've been advised not to comment on ongoing judicial proceedings and I've advised our players to do the same," he said.
During the press conference, Belichick was quick to emphasize that he, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the entire organization are determined to move forward from the scandal. "We will learn from this terrible experience and become a better team from what we have learned," Belichick stated.
According to the Associated Press, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and the other team captains will talk to reporters on Thursday at the start of training camp. The first practice will begin on Friday.
As the AP notes, Hernandez was back in court Wednesday for a probable cause hearing, which was delayed after prosecutors asked the judge more time to present evidence. His next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 22.