It’s been a somewhat eventful Wednesday in the world of sports. In case you missed the news, Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested today in connection with the on-going investigation into the murder of Odin Lloyd. Not really that much of a surprise given the way things have been developing over the past few days. At the very least Hernandez seems guilty of obstruction of justice. At the worst? (Note: He has now been charged with murder).
But then the real bombshell hit. Shortly after the arrest, the New England Patriots announced that they are not waiting around for the legal process to play out but are instead cutting Hernandez now. The team said in a statement, “A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss. 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,” a statement from the team read.”
Why would the Pats release Hernandez while still owing him millions in guaranteed money? It’s pretty obvious. They know certain details of the investigation through police sources and are certain that Hernandez is about to be sent up the river. So no reason to hang onto him. You’re going to take the cap hit either way, so might as well cut him now and at least look like you’re taking a moral stand. Pure PR calculation on their part.
Obviously a murder investigation is on a whole other level from the bullcrap teams normally have to deal with when it comes to certain players. This is not your run-of-the-mill offseason nonsense. But even the usual stuff like DUIs and bar fights can be a real headache for organizations, especially those that pride themselves on fostering a “culture of accountability.”
The Vikings are only too aware of this reality. In recent years they’ve dealt with plenty of offseason nonsense. Last year there was the Adrian Peterson cop-slap kerfuffle, a pretty big-time situation initially but one that eventually showed itself to be totally bogus. And remember Everson Griffen’s double-dip arrest? Give Griffen credit for maturing in the years since that embarrassing Detroit Lions-like incident. He is now an upstanding citizen and pretty good football player.
And if you want to talk in-season incidents, of course there was the Chris Cook domestic battery mess. And Love Boat. And various other problems major and minor. The point being, if you’re going to run an NFL team, your players are occasionally going to get in trouble. And you are going to have to pull off some pretty serious spin-doctoring on their – and your own – behalf.
The Patriots right now are dealing with a situation that is about as bad as it gets. DUI and domestic battery are horrible but premeditated murder is on another plane. And this involves a highly-paid superstar player. This is probably the biggest such incident since the Ray Lewis disaster. The Ravens stood by Lewis the entire time and he eventually got off. The Patriots’ rush to cut ties with Hernandez certainly suggests that he is in big big trouble.
A Viking fan watching all this go down has to feel pretty grateful for the relative calm and sanity we have experienced so far this offseason. No arrests. No incidents. Nothing to be embarrassed about. Unless you count Rick Spielman treating Antoine Winfield like dirt. But that’s not a crime in the eyes of the law. It’s only a crime against common decency.
Will the calm seas continue for the Vikings as we sail toward training camp? Or is there a storm building beyond the horizon? No way of knowing. All we can do is cross our fingers and hope our guys stay out of trouble. The Hernandez mess reminds us just how bleak things can sometimes become.