NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has described Aaron Hernandez's upcoming trial for murder as a "black eye" for the sport.
Hernandez was released by the New England Patriots hours before he was indicted on murder charges following the death of ex-Boston Bandits linebacker Odin Lloyd.
The tight end maintained his innocence in a letter sent from jail to a fan who had written to him, saying he looked forward to the day when a judge says "not guilty" while insisting that "nothing will break me".
Speaking out about the case for the first time Goodell admitted that the case was "deeply troubling" and says the league is now stepping up its efforts to ensure everyone coming into the sport receives the support they need.
"It's a black eye," he told NFL Network on Wednesday. "You never want to see your players involved with anything off the field or criminal in any nature, and this is deeply troubling ... to see this kind of behavior. It is something we are not proud of.
"The Patriots obviously reacted very quickly and decisively, and now it's up to Aaron ... and he's going to be facing the criminal process," Goodell went on. "In the meantime, what we have to do is do everything we can to help our young people make the right decisions and evaluate our people when they're coming into the league. And make sure to do everything to avoid these kind of situations."
Hernandez has been denied bail and will remain in jail until his trial date.