Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has made headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent months, and last week he was indicted on charges including first-degree murder in connection with the death of Odin Lloyd.
Now, Rolling Stone has taken an in-depth look at the fall of a once-promising football star (written by contributing editor Paul Solotaroff along with Boston Herald columnist Ron Borges). The story, titled "The Gangster in the Huddle," reveals details of family troubles, college issues and alleged drug use.
UPDATE: Friday, Aug. 30, at 7:34 a.m. ET
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com provided Belichick's postgame comments on the Rolling Stones piece on Hernandez:
“I don’t have anything to add,” Belichick said three straight times last night when asked about the story during Thursday’s post-game press conference.
Asked if the Hernandez situation will linger over the course of the season, Belichick said, “I told you I don’t have any comment on that. There’s nothing more I’m going to say about it.”
“I’m just saying as it relates to the football team,” the reporter said.
“Anything else?” Belichick responded.
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UPDATE: Thursday, Aug. 29, at 7:52 p.m. ET
Patriots president Jonathan Kraft went on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston to comment on the Rolling Stones article (via ProFootballTalk.com): “The stuff I know about the article is just completely factually inaccurate."
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UPDATE: Thursday, Aug. 29, at 7:22 p.m. ET
From New York Post reporter Bart Hubbuch:
From reporter Ben Volin of The Boston Globe:
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UPDATE: Thursday, Aug. 29, at 9:35 a.m. ET
I think [the case] is not only beatable, [but] I think he will be back in the NFL within three or four years. I think they've grossly overcharged him based on the case they're building -- no direct eye witness, no murder weapon [and] no plausible motive.
Solotaroff then provided additional insight into Hernandez's case, courtesy of Wilson:
His principle nemesis at this point is likely to be the five gun charges levied against him; I think they got him dead to right on most of those. But as crazy as it sounds, this is a guy with no priors. So asking a judge to sentence Hernandez to consecutive prison bids—rather than contemporary ones—is going to be a very hard sell for the prosecution. And if in fact he winds up doing three years behind [bars for] those gun charges—which would be a lot in this case—he's 26, 27, with very low mileage on those legs of his and a lot of time to heal up. My sources tell me there will be more than one NFL team pursuing him hotly when he walks out of jail in four years.
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The deep dive into Hernandez, his past and those he came in contact with over the years provides a clearer picture of how he got into the dire situation he currently finds himself in. As the tagline reads, "Aaron Hernandez might have been one of the NFL’s all-time greats, but he could never escape drugs, guns and a life of violence."
One of the overarching themes within the article is how Hernandez had changed from a likable kid from Connecticut into someone completely different after his father's death. While the old version of Hernandez would return at times, it was no longer the norm.
The sweet, goofy kid from Bristol, Connecticut, with the klieg-light smile and ex-thug dad who'd turned his life around to raise two phenom sons – that Aaron Hernandez had barely been heard from in the seven hard years since his father was snatched away, killed in his prime by a medical error that left his boys soul-sick and lost. Once in a great while, the good Aaron would surface, phoning one of his college coaches to tell him he loved him and to talk to the man’s kids for hours, or stopping Robert Kraft, the Patriots' owner, to kiss him on the cheek and thank him damply.
Solotaroff states coaches had continued to stick by him throughout the years due to the brief glimpses of the good Hernandez, even though there was also a violent side to him.
Hernandez's father, Dennis, along with his uncle (and father's twin brother), David, were also local sports stars growing up. But they too had another side, reportedly getting into street fights and being involved in various crimes.
The twins were pinched for small-change crimes—assault and petty larceny—in the decade after they both left UConn. As late as 1990, Dennis was busted for burglary, though neither brother seems to have done prison time. Friends say they also occasionally smoked crack, beat up dealers for drugs and cash, and bet way over their heads on sports. As for their pal Testa, he was caught in the act while robbing a house with his uncle, who shot and killed a cop while they tried to escape. "The rumor on the street was Dennis and David were there too," says [Detective Sgt. John] Sassu, "but we couldn’t make the case."
Rolling Stone reports Hernandez himself had fallen into a vicious cycle of problems. Family friends told the magazine he had recently been using the hallucinogenic drug angel dust and had reached a point where his Patriots career was teetering on the edge due to missed workouts and rehab sessions.
In exclusive conversations with Rolling Stone, those friends, who insisted they not be named, say Hernandez was using the maniacal drug angel dust, had fallen in with a crew of gangsters and convinced himself that his life was in danger, carrying a gun wherever he went. Sources close to the tight end add that throughout the spring, when players are expected to be preparing themselves for the marathon NFL season, Hernandez had missed workouts and sessions with a rehab trainer, and had been told by his head coach, Bill Belichick, that he was one misstep from being cut.
Even before the latest string of disturbing problems, there were warning signs. He struggled to stay out of trouble during his collegiate career at Florida, where former Gators and current Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer did everything he could to change his ways.
Meyer had meetings with Hernandez where they would review scripture, asked the Pouncey brothers, Mike and Maurkice, to keep an eye on him, and even brought in Tim Tebow in an effort to keep the talented pass-catcher on the right track.
The results of Meyer's efforts were mixed, at best. Hernandez allegedly punched a waiter in the head during one outing with Tebow, but no charges were levied. That and further issues were kept under wraps by the Florida program, a reporter told Rolling Stone.
"We didn’t hear that story till much, much later—the police didn’t file a report," says a local reporter who was covering the team. As a sophomore, Hernandez was benched for the season opener, meaning he’d likely failed drug tests over the summer. But Meyer denied it, saying he "wasn’t ready to play," again giving cover for bad behavior. "Meyer kept us at such a distance," says the reporter, "or flat-out lied, that we couldn’t verify a pot suspension."
While the Patriots organization has attempted to distance itself from Hernandez since the murder investigation began, Solotaroff doesn't buy the franchise's apparent lack of knowledge. He states the former tight end's actions were understood.
In his first remarks after Odin Lloyd's murder, Robert Kraft described himself as "duped" by Hernandez, saying he'd had no knowledge of his troubles. That is arrant nonsense: Every team knew him as a badly damaged kid with a circle of dangerous friends and a substance problem. Once a Patriot, Hernandez practically ran up a banner that said STOP ME! I’M OUT OF CONTROL! He'd get high all the time driving away from games, say friends of the family, "smoking three or four blunts" in the ride back to his place.
He also discussed the Patriots' ways of overseeing their players and the boatload of money spent each season by the league and its franchises on security.
At the same time, Hernandez was hanging around with a group of shady characters, which was a situation that didn't sit well with his friends.
Instead of teammates, Hernandez built a cohort of thugs, bringing stone-cold gangsters over to the house to play pool, smoke chronic and carouse. "One of his uncles went to Boston to talk to him, and these scary-looking dudes are hanging out in his game room," says a friend. "They wouldn’t say hi or shake his hand, and when he brought it up to Aaron, he laughed him off."
Rolling Stone states Hernandez made an effort to rectify the entire situation early in 2013, perhaps one of those times when the good version showed up. He alerted head coach Bill Belichick that he felt his life might be in danger.
But a short time later he headed for California to do offseason rehab and get away from the situation. He missed sessions, and things never returned to normal when he got back home.
In June, Odin Lloyd was found dead. The details, motive and most of the other vital information about the case remain unknown. Hernandez faces first-degree murder and weapons charges in connection with the case, and his fate will be decided in a court of law.
Although the Rolling Stone piece doesn't make any definitive statements about the case itself, Solotaroff states the sum of Hernandez's actions shouldn't be viewed as a shock.
So call him stupid or sloppy or a menace to society, Hernandez keeps catching the breaks. He’s gotten rich running to daylight after being hemmed in, shedding tacklers and accusers to escape. If he eludes pursuit again, there will be blame to go around, but no one can claim they didn't see it coming. He’s been getting away with murder, figuratively, if not literally, his whole life.
Nobody knows what the future holds for Hernandez. He was a talented player on the field, but clearly a different picture about his life away from football is now being painted. And it's not pretty.
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