|Hernandez charged with murder, cut by Patriots|
|Thursday, June 27, 2013 12:26 AM|
The New England Patriots did not wait until Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder to cut ties with the troubled tight end, releasing him from the roster on Wednesday morning soon after police led him from his house in handcuffs.
In a rare instance of public relations before football for one of the league’s most successful teams, the Patriots released a statement reading, “At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do.”
The swift dissociation came the same day the Cleveland Browns released rookie linebacker Ausar Walcott, who has been charged with attempted murder and accused of punching a man outside a New Jersey strip club. And it comes the same week NFL rookies are gathering at the Browns’ facilities for lectures and workshops designed to help them avoid the pitfalls of professional sports.
Citing fatigue from travel, Hall-of-Fame running back Jim Brown cancelled a speaking engagement with some of the NFL’s rookies.
Brown had been scheduled to conduct a history lesson for AFC rookies on Wednesday at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. However, the 77-year-old former Cleveland Browns star issued a statement saying he is extremely tired and needs rest.
Fellow Hall-of-Famer Mike Haynes will replace Brown, who lives in Los Angeles.
From Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick’s dogfighting ring to the murder-suicide involving Kansas City linebacker Jovan Belcher, the league has struggled to keep pace with its players’ off-field problems, some of them violent. Hernandez was charged Wednesday with the slaying of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, whose bullet-riddled body was found in an industrial park about a mile away from Hernandez’s North Attleborough, Mass., home.
Prosecutor Bill McCauley claimed at the arraignment that Hernandez “orchestrated the crime from the beginning.” Hernandez, who was held without bail, did not enter a plea but his lawyer said the case against the 23-year-old football player “is not a strong case.”
If convicted, Hernandez faces life in prison without parole.
“The involvement of an NFL player in a case of this nature is deeply troubling,” the NFL wrote in a statement. “The Patriots have released Aaron Hernandez, who will have his day in court. At the same time, we should not forget the young man who was the victim in this case and take this opportunity to extend our deepest sympathy to Odin Lloyd’s family and friends.”
Even as Hernandez was being arrested, the Patriots continued the business of football.
The decision to release him broke up the tight end tandem of Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski that had been one of the most effective in history, a pairing of Pro Bowl players who combined for 16 touchdowns and 1,479 yards receiving last season — the most for any team at the position, according to STATS. Two years ago, with 169 catches for 2,237 yards and 24 touchdowns, the New England tight ends set NFL records in each category.
Gronkowski has had five operations this offseason on his back and broken left forearm, leaving his future uncertain and New England — at least temporarily — with five other tight ends expected to be ready for the start of training camp; together they caught a total of nine passes last season. Tim Tebow, a quarterback who may be better suited for tight end, is also an option.
With a single-minded focus on football that has made him one of the most successful coaches in NFL history, the taciturn Bill Belichick has long been willing to take a chance on talented but troubled players in hopes that a fresh start with New England and a winning environment would keep them in line.
In most cases, players are given short-term deals that make it easy for the team to purge them if the problems reappear.
But under the 5-year, $41 million contract extension Hernandez signed last year, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, he will cost the Patriots about $4 million under the league’s salary cap in 2013. That would include the $1.323 million salary for 2013 plus a pro-rated portion of his signing bonus, according to an NFL agent familiar with the contract who spoke on the condition of anonymity because such details are not public.
Next year’s cap hit would be even worse — the $7.5 million left on his signing bonus plus his base salary of about $1.1 million,. The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement allows teams to recoup bonus money when a player is incarcerated but by releasing him the team probably lost the opportunity to take advantage of that provision, the agent added.
An All-American at Florida, Hernandez’s behavior in college led him to be red-flagged entering the NFL, when several teams reportedly took him off their draft boards — refusing to pick him under any circumstances — and enough had questions about his character to let him slide all the way to New England in the fourth round.
Afterward, Hernandez said he had failed a single drug test in college, reportedly for marijuana, and was honest with teams about it.
And the Patriots seemed like the perfect fit.
Even before Belichick became the coach, the organization tried to maintain a delicate balance — publicly stressing good character while signing players with questions in their past.
In 1996, New England drafted defensive lineman Christian Peter from Nebraska in the fifth round even though he had been arrested eight times, accused of grabbing one woman around the throat and of sexually assaulting a former Miss Nebraska.
“They’re not all choir boys in this league,” then-coach Bill Parcells said but the team — spurred by the wife of owner Bob Kraft — soon relinquished its draft rights to him.
Nor has Belichick shied away from players with troubled pasts more recently, though none faced charges as serious as Hernandez. Among the players signed by the Patriots were receivers Randy Moss and the one known at the time as Chad Ochocinco; defensive backs Alfonzo Dennard, Aqib Talib and Brandon Meriweather; running back Corey Dillon and offensive lineman Nick Kaczur.
Most had questions about their personal lives before coming to New England, already wearing out their welcome with one or more other NFL teams. Some ran into legal trouble only after signing with New England. Others, like Moss and Dillon, produced on the field for a while before the Patriots grew tired of them, too.
Despite his problems in college, Hernandez seemed to be staying out of trouble in New England. But since Hernandez was connected with Lloyd’s death, other issues have become public.
A South Florida man filed a lawsuit last week claiming Hernandez shot him in the face after they argued at a strip club. The man, who lost his right eye, told police after the February incident that he did not know who shot him.
The Boston Globe reported that Hernandez lost his temper and threatened teammate Wes Welker during an argument in the team’s weight room shortly after being drafted.
But Hernandez became a father to a daughter on Nov. 6 and he said it made him think.
“I’m engaged now and I have a baby. So it’s just going to make me think of life a lot differently and doing things the right way,” he added. “Now, another one is looking up to me. I can’t just be young and reckless Aaron no more. I’m going to try to do the right things, become a good father and (have her) be raised like I was raised.”
Browns rookie charged in NJ beating is released
PASSAIC, N.J. — The Browns have released a rookie who is charged with attempted murder for allegedly punching a man in the head outside a club in northern New Jersey.
Ausar Walcott turned himself in to Passaic police Tuesday after he was identified as a suspect in an incident that happened around 3 a.m. Sunday.
The linebacker was signed by the Browns on May 13 following a tryout. The team announced his release Wednesday.
Walcott, 23, is charged with first-degree attempted murder, second-degree aggravated assault and third-degree endangering an injured victim, said Salvatore Bellomo, a senior assistant prosecutor.
He added the complaint alleges Walcott punched a man in the head.
The Record newspaper (http://bit.ly/19t3uSU) wrote the Hackensack, N.J., native and former University of Virginia player struck 24-year-old Derrick Jones just after The Palace Gentlemen’s Club closed. Police told the newspaper that Jones, who is from New York City, was critically injured.
Walcott was being held on $500,000 bail. It’s not clear if he has a defense lawyer.
Walcott is the second Browns rookie to be arrested. Seventh-round selection Armonty Bryant was charged with drunken driving in Oklahoma less than one week after the Browns picked the defensive end in April’s draft. Bryant, who was also arrested on a felony drug charge in college, said Tuesday that he has been working hard to stay clean.
A list of major NFL player arrests
This is a look at some other notable criminal cases involving NFL or former NFL players, along with the league’s actions if they were active.
— MICHAEL VICK: Suspended indefinitely without pay by Commissioner Roger Goodell in 2007 when Vick pleaded guilty to dogfighting conspiracy. The Atlanta Falcons quarterback was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison. A week after being released from federal custody on July 20, 2009, and having been released by the Falcons, he was conditionally reinstated by Goodell. Less than three weeks later, he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, and played his first regular-season game in nearly three years on Sept. 27 of that year.
— ADAM “PACMAN” JONES: The cornerback was suspended by Goodell for the 2007 season under the league’s personal conduct policy after multiple arrests while playing for the Tennessee Titans. Now with the Cincinnati Bengals, he has been in and out of legal trouble, with at least seven arrests over the years and involvement in about a dozen incidents that included police intervention. He recently pleaded not guilty to an assault charge after police say he hit a woman at a nightclub. If he is found guilty or accepts a plea bargain, he would be subject to another NFL suspension.
— RYAN LEAF: After four unproductive and injury-plagued seasons in the NFL from 1998-2001, the quarterback was out of the league and ran into legal problems involving drugs. Last year, he pleaded guilty to burglary and drug possession and given a 5-year jail term. In January, he was moved from a drug treatment center to state prison in Montana for threatening a staff member and violating his treatment plan.
— RAY LEWIS: The Ravens’ star linebacker and two companions were indicted in 2000 on murder and aggravated assault charges following the stabbing deaths of two people after a Super Bowl party in Atlanta. The linebacker’s lawyers negotiated a plea bargain in which the murder charge was dropped in exchange for his testimony against the two others charged in the case. Lewis was sentenced to one year of probation. His two companions were acquitted in June 2000. Lewis was fined $250,000 by the NFL. The next season, he was voted Super Bowl MVP when the Ravens beat the Giants in the league’s championship game.
— RAE CARRUTH: A wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers from 1997-99, was accused in the 1999 shooting death of his pregnant girlfriend. Two men pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for their testimony that Carruth paid one of them $6,000 to kill Cherica Adams while she sat in her car, with Carruth blocking its path using his vehicle. Carruth was acquitted of first-degree murder but was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, discharging a firearm into occupied property and using an instrument with intent to destroy an unborn child. The baby survived. Carruth is serving an 18- to 24-year prison sentence.
— ART SCHLICHTER: The Colts’ quarterback was suspended indefinitely in 1983 by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle for gambling on NFL games a year earlier. The quarterback was reinstated for the ‘84 season but later admitted gambling while under suspension. He was released five games into the ‘85 season. In 1987, he pleaded guilty to illegal gambling and Rozelle did not reinstate him after Schlichter applied for permission to re-sign. Last year, he was sentenced to 10 years, seven months in prison for his involvement in a million-dollar ticket scam.
— O.J. SIMPSON: One of the NFL’s top running backs in 1970s with the Buffalo Bills, Simpson was acquitted of the 1994 murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman, after one of the most publicized criminal trials in history. In 1997, a civil court awarded a judgment against him for their wrongful deaths, but little of the $33.5 million penalty has been paid. In 2008, Simpson was found guilty of armed robbery and kidnapping, and must serve the first nine years of a 33-year sentence without a chance of parole.
Denver judge dismisses lawsuit against Perrish Cox
DENVER — A Denver judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a woman who accused former Broncos cornerback Perrish Cox of sexual assault.
Court documents show the case was dismissed last week at both parties’ request, with no one admitting fault.
Attorneys for both sides mentioned a confidential agreement reached outside of court in declining to comment Wednesday.
The woman had sued after jurors acquitted Cox of criminal charges alleging he sexually assaulted the woman at his apartment in 2010 after a night of partying. She remembered little of what happened but became pregnant and prosecutors said DNA tests indicated Cox was the father.
Cox now plays for the San Francisco 49ers.
Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas, who was a witness in the criminal case, was previously dismissed from the lawsuit.