- Field Yates, ESPN Insider
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Patriots president Jonathan Kraft disputed several elements of a recent Rolling Stone profile of former New England tight end Aaron Hernandez, who has been charged with murder in the death of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd.
According to the magazine's story, Hernandez had told Patriots coach Bill Belichick that he feared for his life in the months before his arrest and Belichick suggested he find a safe house in a town near his residence in North Attleborough, Mass.
Kraft disputed that notion, adding that Belichick had denied such a conversation had taken place.
"It said that Aaron had told Bill that he feared for his life and that his life was in danger and Bill's response was to tell him to get a safe house and lie low," Kraft said Thursday in an interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub. "I actually saw Bill -- I think I would've known if that had ever happened -- but I saw Bill today and I said, 'Bill, did Aaron ever tell you his life was in danger?' And he's like, 'Absolutely not.'
"If a player had told Bill his life was in danger, Bill would say we're calling [team director of security] Mark Briggs, we're calling the authorities."
The report also said Belichick had threatened to cut Hernandez if the former tight end committed one more misstep, less than a year after he signed a lucrative contract extension.
"If we had known what people seem to think we know about Aaron Hernandez, we would not have done that deal," Kraft told the radio station. "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.
"Here's the bottom line on the contract and everything else: In our history of owning this team, we have only signed two players who were drafted players after two years of playing. So giving them an extension, a new deal, an extension beyond their rookie deal, effectively their first free-agent contract because we do not sign players early like that. One was Rob Gronkowski and one was Aaron Hernandez, and we commit a lot of money before we had to.
"Our family doesn't like to do that if we feel like we're not making a good decision, and I can tell you that Bill Belichick doesn't like doing that, either. Those cap dollars are precious."
Among the other elements of the Rolling Stone article that Kraft disputed was that Hernandez had skipped out on team training drills this spring while he was in California. Kraft noted that Hernandez participated in 25 of 33 offseason workouts, which fell short of the 90 percent he needed to receive an $82,000 workout bonus. A source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter earlier this week that the NFL Players Association is looking to recoup that bonus.
Kraft also defended Briggs and said it was not Belichick who made the decision to replace Frank Mendes, the team's security chief from 1990 to 2003, with Briggs, as had been reported by Rolling Stone.
Because of what he deemed factual inaccuracies, Kraft said he isn't sure how much of the article is true.
"I read that article, and there's so much in it, and it reads like it's all factual, people were there, yet there are no named [sources]," Kraft said. "It's all unnamed, and yet it appears like people are in some very private moments and got the dialogue just right. Nothing is sourced, and reading the article, there were three things or two, three, four things in particular that I saw and I just know are completely factually inaccurate, I mean not close to being factually accurate. Just inaccurate. So I look at it and I read the article, and you wonder how much else in there is."
The Rolling Stone story cited "longtime family friends" who insisted on anonymity as sources of the information on Hernandez.
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