Three years ago the New England Patriots selected Aaron Hernandez in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Then just 20 years old with a 6-foot-2, 250-pound frame loaded with talent, Hernandez fell to the 113th overall pick in part because teams were scared off by the Florida tight end’s behavioral history that included possible gang affiliation and drug use.
On Wednesday morning, Massachusetts State Police arrested Hernandez in his North Attleborough home for his alleged involvement in the murder of 27-year-old semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd.
Hernandez was later arraigned at the Attleboro District Court and charged with murder, along with five gun-related charges as Lloyd’s family watched. He entered a plea of not guilty to all charges.
Lloyd’s body was discovered on June 17 roughly a mile from Hernandez’s home. The two were reportedly friends, and Lloyd was also dating the sister of Hernandez’s girlfriend.
Less than two hours after his arrest, the Patriots released Hernandez and issued a statement.
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"A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss," the Patriots' statement read. "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."
Several reports have stated that Hernandez and two other men were seen with Lloyd hours before his death.
Police have searched Hernandez’s home several times and reportedly discovered his home-surveillance system and cell phone destroyed.
The swiftness of New England’s release of Hernandez has added to speculation that the team was prepared for the worst, and that it used its well-placed ties to law enforcement as a telescope into the investigation. Pro Football Talk cited a league source who said the Patriots had decided that if Hernandez were arrested, they would sever ties with him immediately.
Hernandez has enjoyed a solid NFL career. New England appeared to have made the right decision in looking beyond his shortcomings and taking a chance on the young player. He had 45 catches for 563 yards and six touchdowns in his first season, and another 79 catches for 910 yards and seven scores in his second.
Hernandez was rewarded with a long-term $40 million contract in August, including a $12.5 million signing bonus. New England can now try to get back $10 million of the bonus, which was supposed to be paid out in increments until the deal expired in 2018.
Before the NFL, Hernandez spent three years under head coach Urban Meyer at Florida. From 2007 to 2009, he compiled 111 receptions for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns. While Hernandez was seen as one of the more talented prospects in the draft, he admitted to teams at the NFL Combine that he had failed a drug test for marijuana, and according to a report from the Boston Globe in 2010, said his drug use contributed to the 2006 death of his father, Dennis.
The investigation into Lloyd’s death has opened up the rest of Hernandez’s past to scrutiny. It was learned by Sports Illustrated that teams were also concerned with some of Hernandez’s associates and their alleged involvement in gang activity.
TMZ recently reported an incident involving Hernandez and a friend that resulted in gunfire. Alexander S. Bradley filed a lawsuit against Hernandez, alleging Hernandez shot him in the face after an argument at a strip club in Miami. However, when asked by police who shot him, Bradley did not say Hernandez and actually refused to cooperate.