Will the Pats Ditch Hernandez?
This is commentary from Kenny Ducey, giving you a closer look into the Aaron Hernandez Scandal.
The New England Patriots embody everything good about football. Okay, maybe that’s not 100% true (Belichick is a little mean, sometimes), but they’re the closest to a perfect-run franchise as there is in football today. They’ve got a great no-nonsense policy enforced by the most no-nonsense coach of them all. This week, though, we’ve learned that even the Patriots can make mistakes.
In my lifetime, the ‘Spygate’ scandal is the only blemish I can recall the Patriots having. Now, that was an incident never proven to be true, but from what we know, there was something shady going on. The whole league was taken by surprise and Bill Belichick was made out to be more of a villain than ever before, at least in New York.
Even when the Patriots decided to take risks with big egos such as Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco, they managed to keep the media circus away and make these guys happy to be there. When Haynesworth got into an altercation with a coach, he was thrown off the team. New England never shows desperation, there’s never a situation where they’ll keep a player whose attitude is detrimental to their success. It’s always been about football and keeping your mouth shut with the Patriots, and still is. That’s why you can’t call Aaron Hernandez a true ‘Patriot’ any longer.
Hernandez was given a great gift by the Patriots in the 2010 NFL Draft, a job. The 6’ 1” 245 lb Tight End out of Florida was ranked as the best prospect at his position according to Scout.com, yet no team wanted to draft him because of his past off-the-field issues in Gainesville. In fact, five TEs, including his teammate Rob Gronkowski, went before him.
The Patriots decided to give the kid a chance, and after a couple good years with the team, they signed him to the second-largest extension ever for a player at his position last August.
Not even a year later, Hernandez is paying them back by mixing himself up in a murder investigation.
He’s not just a person of interest, there’s an arrest warrant (of some kind) for obstruction of justice. Why? Because he smashed his security system and phone to pieces, and had his house professionally cleaned. I’ll tell you this much, he wasn’t destroying his phone because his buddy beat him in 2K.
He is directly involved in a murder case. We’re not sure if he’s the killer, or what exactly his role is, but police are searching his house after he 'intentionally destroyed' his security system.
Regardless how deep the connection is, Aaron Hernandez has done the Patriots, himself, and most importantly, the victim Odin Lloyd, a disservice.
And not to be forgotten, the Lloyds are the most important aspect of this story, which may get lost in the discussion of how this affects football. Right now they mourn the loss of someone they cared for, while Aaron Hernandez drives around in a Muscle Milk hat looking for places to work out, and while many Patriots fans are busy worrying about how much time Hernandez, the second TE likely out for some of this year, will miss.
But the Patriots themselves are stuck in an odd place as it pertains to their public perception. They’re right in between the two extremes. For one, some may feel bad for them, because something like this was out of their control to some extent, and it may go on to become an imperfection in the perfect pearl this team has been for two decades.
On the other hand, though, the team had to know what they were getting themselves into with Hernandez to some extent. They also are responsible somewhat for what Hernandez is doing in the times the team isn’t meeting. But the line is simply not defined, so we can’t arrive at a clear conclusion.
The Patriots have for years been one of the most respected franchises in all of sports, and only the Lord knows just how far the walls will come crumbling down if Hernandez’s role in the crime is more than obstruction of justice. Could you imagine a world where the Patriots were seen as anything less than a first-class organization?
If this scandal teaches us one thing, it’s that we as fans do not know a player just by what does on the field and says in the media. Far too many football fans either wrote this off as a completely false story, and far too many were ready to lock up Hernandez as soon as they saw his name and ‘murder’ in the same tweet.
It’s very important not to overreact early to things like this, and that goes double when you have a prejudice towards a specific player. Just because he’s good at catching a football doesn’t mean he’s a nice guy too, and just because he’s beating your team it doesn’t mean he’s evil. Football players are human, just like the rest of us. They can screw up, just like the rest of us.
But a ‘Patriot’ is no ordinary football player. He is someone that is expected to go out and perform at a high level every Sunday, and quietly prepare for the next week. And for smearing dirt on the great name of the Patriots, Aaron Hernandez no longer is committed to their philosophy, and in turn, not a Patriot.
The only question left to ask is, will the Patriots feel the same way and keep him on their roster?
It’s a test of their true colors because Hernandez would be their starting tight end if the season started today (and he was eligible to play, of course). And in addition, the team’s franchise TE (Gronkowski) can’t get healthy all of the sudden. While there are solid veterans on the roster, a system which didn’t feature tight ends would be something they’re not accustomed to.
The Pats will have to decide if they make an exception for this 23 year-old, in hopes he fixes his issues, or if he becomes another failed project. Desperation, though, has never been the name of the game.