Ex-Patriot Aaron Hernandez has few coming to his defense in light of his alleged involvement in the murder of Odin Lloyd.
BOSTON — While many football people with ties to Aaron Hernandez have tried to distance themselves from his situation, others have broken silence about the former Patriots tight end’s life in New England.
Hernandez, who was charged with murder last month, typically was open to interviews with the media, friendly and engaging, and usually would find a way to crack a joke to keep everyone on their toes. Many times in the locker room, he was like that with his teammates, too.
Yet there was the other, much more mysterious side. It was the elephant in the room with the thunderous steps, according to several sources with direct ties to Hernandez and the locker room. The vivacious, fun-loving player on the field was a loner behind the curtain.
His teammates didn’t fully grasp why they didn’t see him outside the facility. It’s a case of not really knowing a person the way everyone might have hoped.
“No one hung out with him,” according to one source. “No one.”
Another source further explained that sentiment, adding, “Out of 53 guys, surely there’s someone you could find to hang out with. Instead, he chose to revert to his network from his hometown.”
Hernandez, who hails from Bristol, Conn., ran with a crowd that clearly concerned some of his teammates. The combination of that apprehension and Hernandez’ own gravitation toward his friends from home played into the fact that he was rarely seen with teammates outside of the football facility, according to sources.
Of course, no one would connect the dots between a rough crowd and a murder investigation. Current members of the Patriots haven’t spoken publicly about the subject, but they’re feeling senses of shock, disappointment, devastation and a level of unease because they always hoped they never actually had to fear the worst because of Hernandez’ crowd.
“I could see him being involved only because of his background, but would have never thought to this extent,” a former Patriots player wrote in a text message.
The feeling jibed with Matt Light’s recent comments to the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, whom the former left tackle told he “never embraced — never believed in — anything Aaron Hernandez stood for.”
Albany native and former Patriots receiver Deion Branch has been the only teammate of Hernandez — past of present — to come to his defense.
In an interview with The Herald after his 8th annual Skills and Drills camp at Albany State, Branch called Hernandez “a great guy and a great friend of mine and a great teammate.”
However, the team hasn’t hid its collective feelings. The Pats released Hernandez hours after his arrest with a statement saying it was the “right thing to do,” and they will conduct a jersey exchange this weekend.
Hernandez’ college coaches aren’t talking, either. Former Florida coach Urban Meyer, now at Ohio State, told Fox Sports Ohio on Monday that he wouldn’t discuss Hernandez. Florida said yesterday its team policy does not permit assistant coaches to conduct interviews. And Mississippi State, which has two assistants with direct ties to Hernandez from Florida, also won’t allow them to discuss the tight end’s situation.
The reasons could be wide-ranging, but it’s a complex situation. Hernandez had three interesting interviews in the past year, when he really dived into his personal life. When Hernandez signed his five-year, $40 million contract extension in August, he thanked Robert Kraft for sticking by him and donated $50,000 to the Myra Kraft Giving Back Scholarship Fund. Then, when Hernandez’ daughter was born on his 23rd birthday in November, he said he would no longer be the “young and reckless Aaron.”
Hernandez told reporters on April 10 that he worked out in California this offseason partly because “it’s away from everything else — away from my family, my friends, gives me time to focus on football, focus on my main priorities in life.”
The murder charge indicates football couldn’t win out regularly enough.
“I just think he fooled everyone,” the first source said.