Belichick outlines vetting process

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Patriots coach Bill Belichick talked in detail about the evaluation process the team undertakes on each player before signing or drafting them, a practice that has been called into question in the wake of Aaron Hernandez’s murder charge.

“As far as the whole process goes, I can tell you that we look at every player’s history from the moment we start discussing it, going back to his family, where he grew up, what his lifestyle was like, high school, college experiences -- we evaluate his performance, his intelligence, his work ethic, his motivation, his maturity, his improvement, and we try to project that into our organization on a going-forward basis,” Belichick explained Wednesday. “It combines a player’s personal history, but it also has to project what we think, and how we think, he will be in our environment. Obviously this process is far from perfect, but it’s one that 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.

“We’ll continue to evaluate the way we do things and the way we evaluate our players,” continued Belichick, who wore a blue Patriots pullover for the news conference and handed his visor to an assistant before approaching the podium. “We do it on a regular basis -- not just at the beginning when they come in. Personally, I’m challenged by 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.

“We spent a considerable amount of time evaluating our current players and educating them on not only football, but many other life experiences and off-field subjects. We stress high character, and we stress making good decisions. We’ll continue to do this, and we’ll work to do a better job of it as we go forward.

“We’ll learn from this terrible experience we’ve had, and we’ll become a better team from the lessons that we’ve learned. We have so many players on this team that work hard, that do the right thing, that set a great example of being a professional and being a solid representative of this team and this community.”

Belichick said they evaluate every potential Patriot on an individual basis, a process for which he is the ultimate decision-maker.

“As the coach of the team, I’m primarily responsible for the people we bring into the football operation,” he said. “Our players are generally highly motivated and gifted athletes that come from very different backgrounds. They’ve met many challenges along the way and have done things to get here -- sometimes they’ve made bad or immature decisions. But we try to look at every single 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. Most of those decisions have worked out, but some don’t.”