Making his first public appearance since the arrest of Aaron Hernandez, Patriots coach Bill Belichick addressed the murder charge against the former New England tight end during a press conference on Wednesday.
"I'm going to address the situation involving Aaron Hernandez. I felt that it was important enough to do that prior to the start of camp. It's a sad day. It's really a sad day on so many levels," Belichick told reporters as he read from prepared remarks. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim and I extend my sympathy really to everyone who's been impacted. A young man lost his life and his family has suffered a tragic loss and there's no way to understate that."
The normally tight-lipped Belichick addressed the media for several minutes and then fielded -- and deflected -- questions about Hernandez. The press conference occurred shortly before Hernandez was due in Attleboro District Court for a probable cause hearing. The 23-year-old was arrested on June 26 in connection with the shooting death of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-professional football player. The Patriots released Hernandez shortly after his arrest. Hernandez was subsequently charged with murder and has been held without bail.
"When I was out of the country I learned about the ongoing criminal investigation that involved one of our players. I and other members of our organization were shocked and disappointed at what we learned," Belichick told reporters. "It's a terrible thing, and after consultation with ownership we acted swiftly and decisively. Robert [Kraft], his family and I, since I got here in 2000, have always emphasized the need to represent our organization the right way both on and off the field. We've worked hard over the last 14 years putting together a winning team that is a pillar in the community and I believe 100-percent on that."
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Aside from conveying his personal sadness and shock at the serious nature of the crime that Hernandez is accused of committing, Belichick also addressed the team's evaluation process when it comes to players.
"Obviously, this process is far from perfect, but it's one that we've used from 2000 until today. And unfortunately, this most recent situation with the charges that are involved are not a good one on that record," Belichick explained. "But we'll continue to evaluate the way we do things and the way we evaluate our players. We do it on a regular basis, not just at the beginning when they come in. We do it on a regular basis. Personally, I'm challenged by the decisions that affect the team on a daily basis, and I'm not perfect on that, either, but I always try to do what I think is best for the football team."
At the conclusion of his prepared remarks, Belichick said that it was time for the Patriots to "move forward" and indicated that he would be limited in the questions relating to Hernandez in the future.
"I've been advsised to address the subject once, and it's time for the New England Patriots to move forward," Belichick said. "Moving forward consists of what it's always been here -- to build a winning football team, be a strong pillar in the community and be a team that our fans will be proud of. That's where we are."
CLICK HERE for complete transcript of Belichick's statement