EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 27, 2013

Axed by Pats, Hernandez staring at life in prison for murder

Hector Longo
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — The kid fooled everyone.

He covered up the other half of his life for three seasons with the New England Patriots.

Ultimately, Aaron Hernandez’ association with the team came to a screeching end with his arrest at home yesterday morning in North Attleborough.

The gang-style life that Hernandez apparently embraced from his childhood days into his three seasons with the Patriots, finally landed the 23-year-old with the arrogant smile in a whole heap of trouble.

Hours before District Attorney William McCauley laid out the six-count case against Hernandez in Attleboro District Court, the Patriots had seen enough, releasing the player they had only 10 months earlier given a $40-million contract extension.

The Patriots released this statement via email:

“A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss. Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation. We realize that law enforcement investigations into this matter are ongoing. We support their efforts and respect the process. At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do.”

The team didn’t wait for a trial. Heck, Coach Bill Belichick and team owner Bob Kraft didn’t even listen to McCauley as he rolled through a timeline of the alleged murder of Odin L. Lloyd. It was backed by text messages, cell phone signals and surveillance cameras from North Attleborough, up into Boston and back.

McCauley summed it up succinctly, that Hernandez, “drove the victim to the remote spot and orchestrated his execution.”

Judge Daniel O’Shea heard enough from the prosecution that he deemed no bail would be allowed to Hernandez, who will now await his day in court from behind bars instead of his new $1.3 million mini-mansion.

Hernandez has been clouded in off-field turmoil, despite his claims after signing last summer that he had embraced and accepted “the Patriot Way.”

As a sports writer on the beat, you attend events in and around Gillette Stadium with your eyes open. Many folks in my position, both with the team and not with them, may have chosen to put blinders on as Hernandez hung with young, gang-looking types.

Today, they go on air or in print and are stunned.

Call it stereotyping, maybe. But Hernandez’s crew struck fear in me — a feeling I’ve never, ever felt before in covering pro sports.

All the while, Hernandez wore an engaging smile.

This morning, I’m not surprised Aaron Hernandez is no longer a Patriot and is facing a murder charge.

Reports noted yesterday that police searches of the home found “several guns and weapons.” Not the murder weapon, just several others.

None registered. None legal. Not exactly the Patriot Way.

Guilty or not, Aaron Hernandez remains a bad man. The New England Patriots clarified that yesterday by releasing Hernandez while he remains innocent for now.

He fooled Bill Belichick and his good friend Urban Meyer, Hernandez’ coach at the University of Florida.

Perhaps, the coaches, watching Hernandez work his magic on the gridiron, ignored the signs.

Heck, all of New England raved over his creative “make it rain,” end zone celebrations — ignoring the fact that the basis of the action hails from gentlemen’s (strip) clubs. He was our guy, so it was OK.

In football terms, this could be a devastating blow for Tom Brady and the Pats.

The team had already let record-breaking receiver Wes Welker sign with Denver and bruising tight end Rob Gronkowski is sidelined after back surgery.

And Hernandez, whose simple ability to run, cut and catch offered him countless free trips out of the gang life, could just have seen his millionaire existence implode upon him.