Foxboro, Massachussets (NEWS CENTER) - The rain and the gloomy weather is a fitting way for the Patriots to open their 2013 training camp given all the dark clouds circling around the Aaron Hernandez murder investigation. Fortunately, for the players though, they now have the opportunity to focus on football on a daily basis.
It's something a former teammate with the Patriots, and at the University of Florida, Brandon Spikes said will help the team through the tragic events linked to Hernandez.
"That's going to be the whole key, you know, just make sure we keep guys on the main goal and just try to get better each and every day. Like I said, don't look back in the past. It is what it is," Spikes said."
Pro Bowler and special teams captain Matthew Slater added, "You know to kind of be able to get out here and play the game we enjoy and love so much, so it definitely did everybody's spirit good today to get out here."
Head coach Bill Belichick has been the architect of the "Patriot Way" in terms of the teams approach on and off the field. To him, each year presents its respective challenges, especially when training camp gets underway.
"There's always a lot of things you've got to do at the beginning of camp and this year's no different than any other year. It's bringing a lot of people together for, you know, a long process in camp and we've got a lot of work to do," Belichick said.
Most of the organization has known Hernandez from just their professional experiences, but former college teammates like Spikes and Tim Tebow have an even deeper tie to the alleged murderer and the aftermath.
"You know, we've been advised as I'm sure you've all heard a bunch of times, you know, not to comment on an ongoing legal investigation, so I'm not going to comment further, but it's just heartbreaking and sad and all my thoughts prayers go out to all the families involved," said Tebow.
"We can't try to hide behind what happened. I think we acknowledge it. We talk about it. You know obviously guys are hurt, people are hurt. You try to get peace of mind as best you can in a situation like this and then you try to move forward," Slater added.
As if the Hernandez saga wasn't enough of a distraction, the Patriots now have to share the same confines with Taylor Swift, as she'll have concerts here at Gillette Stadium over the next two nights.
The Patriots had their full allotment of 90 players for the start of training camp and none of them wore the #81 vacated by Hernandez.