FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- During the past three seasons, Tom Brady has thrown hundreds of passes to Aaron Hernandez. On Thursday, however, Brady tried to sever whatever public connection he might have to his former Patriots teammate, saying it is time for him and the team to "move forward."
"How long ago was that? About six weeks ago," Brady said when asked the emotions he has experienced in the wake of Hernandez's arrest for murder. "I think everyone had a certain range of emotions, but those were really personal and I dealt with them. At some point you have to move forward, and I think we as a team are doing that. It's been a challenging offseason, but we have to move forward the best we know how."
Brady made his remarks on the practice field outside of Gillette Stadium Thursday, a day before the team is scheduled to open its training camp.
He and the team's defensive captains -- Jerod Mayo, Devin McCourty and Vince Wilfork -- were made available to reporters for a half-hour. All four were asked almost exclusively about Hernandez, who has been charged in the murder of semipro football player Odin Lloyd last month.
With the arrest of a player who played a major role in carrying them to the Super Bowl two years ago, this has been an offseason like no other for the Patriots. Though all the players have been advised not to talk specifically about Hernandez because of ongoing legal proceedings, Wilfork admitted it is hard to begin training camp under such conditions.
"You're not dealing with just football right now," Wilfork said. "You're dealing with human beings, you're dealing with life. So it's just sad."
McCourty echoed his thoughts.
"I think, like everyone else, I'm just shocked with everything that happened," McCourty said. "It's a very sad story. A man lost his life."
Hernandez is accused of killing Lloyd last month in a parking lot behind an industrial park. The Patriots released Hernandez hours before his June 26 arrest, but it appears it will be some time before they divest themselves of the long shadow he has cast over their franchise and season.
The Patriots drafted the troubled player out of the University of Florida in the fourth round of the 2010 draft even though he had failed several drug tests, causing other NFL teams to shy away from him. Now it appears that the Patriots are taking some heat for making the gamble, with coach Bill Belichick saying Wednesday that the team might change its process for evaluating draft picks in the future.
As the only offensive player made available Thursday, Brady was in a position to know Hernandez best. He declined to comment on their relationship or on whether he has spoken to Hernandez since the arrest. When asked if Hernandez fit in with the locker room, Brady gave an answer that made it clear he is moving on.
"I don't think it matters at this point," he said.
The quarterback did give an interesting answer when asked if recent events have made him think he didn't know Hernandez as well as he had thought.
"You all have relationships and I don't know if you quantify those things. You have family members, you have friends, you have your kids -- how well do you know your kids?" he asked. "You just try to do the best you can do, but everyone is ultimately accountable for their own decision-making."