FOXBOROUGH — Bill Belichick has likely conducted his most forthcoming press conference in his career. And it comes at a time when the Patriots have come under intense scrutiny following the arrest of former tight end Aaron Hernandez, who is charged with murder.
Because of the seriousness and enormity of the situation (there were reportedly more than 100 members of the media on hand for his remarks), there are a few things I wanted to highlight that were particularly significant.
1. What was known and what was not known — Belichick said the organization did not know of Hernandez’s possible involvement in a 2012 shooting in which two Boston men were slain. He also said the organization didn’t know about the February shooting in Florida Hernandez is tied to. But he did say that the team was looking into which players on the team have possibly visited Hernandez’s flop house in Franklin.
“We have absolutely done as much work as we can on finding out things like that and we’ll try to get all the information that we can as that would apply to any current situation, which I can’t talk about,” Belichick said. “But we absolutely are trying to do that, yes.”
Belichick also said he was out of the country when he received news of Hernandez’s ties to Odin Lloyd’s murder.
2. Belichick was contrite — As the league’s longest tenured coach, Belichick is known for his oftentimes dry, biting comments to the press. There was none of that on Wednesday. He rose to the occasion, acknowledging the loss of life, his disappointment, and was expansive on his views for evaluating players, which is tricky business.
For those who have followed Belichick in his 14 years with the Patriots, Wednesday’s press conference was him in his most uninhibited state, talkative and remorseful, yet still guarded. There’s no doubt that his comments will be his last on the matter, so in being open and thoughtful he has given the team and himself the ability to fully let go of the matter.
Belichick said Hernandez’s name once in 23 minutes. He never said it again. And we’re sure if it’s up to him, he never will.
3. Evaluating players is tough — Without any nudging, Belichick dove in head-first when he brought up how the team evaluates players who become members of the team. He was being frank when he said that the process had failed in this particular instance and when he said that the same process that had been in place for his entire tenure would be modified. But what’s more, he pointed to how difficult it might be with some of the sources on players, particularly when it comes to character.
“Well, nobody knows better than you guys that all sources are not equal,” Belichick said. “You guys know that better than I do. When you get information, you take the information, you evaluate it, and you do the best you can with it. So, there’s a variance in the quality and the amount of the information. It’s a case-by-case basis. Each one’s different. There’s no set formulas. I don’t think it works that way.”
“But again, of the hundreds of players we’ve had through this program in the last 14 years, there’s been a lot of good ones, a lot of real good ones, and we’ll try to do a good job in bringing people into this organization in the future and try to learn from the mistakes that we’ve made along the way, of which there have been plenty. But we’re always trying to do a better job on that and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
4. No comment on Alfonzo Dennard — With Dennard headed back to court Aug. 27, the Patriots coach decided that was one topic he didn’t want to address.
Overall, the press conference was a preemptive strike by Belichick with an opening statement that should all but finalize the matter in Foxborough. From here on out, it’ll be all about football for the Patriots. Just the way he likes it.