New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has found himself “under center” of a murder investigation involving the death of a 27 year old, semi-pro football player, named Odin Lloyd.
Lloyd’s body was found in an industrial park less than a mile from Hernandez’s own home on Monday, not far from a vehicle that had been rented in Hernandez’s name. According to reports Hernandez was initially cooperative in the police investigation, but as more details emerged, and the likelihood of an arrest rose, the Pro Bowler has become more and more reclusive.
So far Hernandez has not done a great, or even a decent, job at portraying his innocence. Police sources say that Hernandez and Lloyd were in the rental car together, along with two other men, after leaving a Boston bar the night of the murder. Text messages from the victims phone confirm that Hernandez was the man driving. Three of the men made it back to Hernandez house that night, with Lloyd being the odd man out. According to Fox 25, citing a law enforcement source, there is video evidence of the three men walking into Hernandez's home within minutes of neighbors hearing gunshots.
On Thursday police arrived at Hernandez home with a warrant claiming the Pro Bowler intentionally destroyed his home security system and hired housecleaners to scrub his home down on Monday. Hernandez was also asked to hand over his phone, and when his attorneys did so, it was allegedly smashed “in pieces.”
A more thorough investigation into Hernandez’s past this week revealed more red flags, including an incident in February in which a man claimed that Hernandez shot him in the face after an altercation on the ride home from a club. The case was initially dropped but was re-filed Wednesday night. Another incident report claimed that Hernandez was present during a May altercation with a Jets fan at a club in Providence in which a firearm was drawn, although it was unclear whether or not the gun was in any way connected to Hernandez.
Regardless of how this plays out legally, this type of behavior is far cry from the “Patriot Way.” At this stage repercussions seem like a safe bet, be it in the form of suspension, or in the worst case scenario, jail time.
So where does that leave the Patriots?
To put it bluntly- in trouble.
It was announced on Wednesday that tight end Rob Gronkowski, Brady’s most efficient weapon, would be placed on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list to start the preseason. Gronk underwent his fifth surgical procedure of the year on Tuesday, and at this point there is no realistic timetable for when, or if, he will be able to return to the field.
Combine that with the loss of safety blanket Wes Welker to free agency, and Hernandez’s legal woes, and New England may very well start the season without their three leading touchdown receivers from a season ago. Now all of a sudden a will-be 36 year old Tom Brady may be left with the ultra-fragile Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Jake Ballard as his go-to options. That’s an incredible talent drop-off from a unit that led the league in scoring at close to 34 points per game in 2012.
The good news for the Patriots is that despite all the uncertainty concerning their Pro Bowl pair of tight ends, they can take solace in the fact that playing in the AFC East means they’ll be able to waltz into the postseason regardless of who they put on the field.
But you can still bet your bottom dollar that Belichick, along with the rest of Patriot nation, is longing for the days when Gronk’s partying was the team’s biggest concern.