Jun 282013
 

Hernandez JerseyThe New England Patriots have announced a free exchange for any fans who own a #81 Aaron Hernandez jersey.

“We know that children love wearing their Patriots jerseys, but may not understand why parents don’t want them wearing their Hernandez jerseys anymore,” said New England Patriots spokesperson Stacey James. “We hope this opportunity to exchange those jerseys at the Patriots ProShop for another player’s jersey will be well received by parents.” Details of the exchange are provided here.

There is no word on whether or not fans wearing a Hernandez jersey will be permitted to enter Patriots’ games. It’s entirely conceivable that the organization will require fans to remove a Hernandez jersey in order to make Hernandez’ name recede into Patriots’ history, as well as to avoid ugly confrontations among fans.

Either way, it’s a classy move on the part of the organization, and another example of the Patriots trying to do the “right thing” in responding to an ugly situation.

And trading in your Hernandez jersey is a lot better than driving it out to an industrial area a mile from your house and shooting it.

Jun 282013
 

Mark Sanchez is lucky that it’s not a slow news week in the NFL.

Mark Sanchez

That’s right, the same Sanchez of butt fumble fame has decided to make his butt… well… the butt of further jokes. The video is from a private party that Sanchez had with two young women, and he can be seen flashing his naked butt for their homemade video.

The video doesn’t show Sanchez killing anyone, not is he committing a crime or (likely) violating any team rules. But for the guy known as the worst starting quarterback in the league who has made more news with his GQ spread than with his play on the field, it is not a good look.

Of course the person who might be loving this video the most is Geno Smith, the quarterback the Jets drafted to replace Sanchez.

Jun 282013
 

Aaron HernandezAt some point, the Aaron Hernandez saga will move into a quiet mode as the two sides prepare for trial, which some believe could take as long as a year from now to commence. But that isn’t today. So here are the developments from yesterday.

1. In a development that was not a surprise to anyone, Aaron Hernandez cleared waivers yesterday, meaning that he is now an unrestricted free agent. Not that it matters. After he cleared waivers, the NFL issued a statement that it will take no action on Hernandez until a team does try to sign him. “NFL clubs were advised today that if Aaron Hernandez enters into a player contract prior to the resolution of the charges pending against him, the contract will not be approved or take effect until Commissioner Roger Goodell holds a hearing,” the league said in a statement.  “The purpose of the hearing would be to determine whether Hernandez should be suspended or face other action prior to the charges being resolved.”

2. The SUV seized by police in their investigation of the 2012 double homicide has been identified as having been rented by Hernandez at the time of the 2012 murders. The fact that the police have been able to jump start a year old cold investigation suggests that one of Hernandez’ “associates” may well be cooperating with the authorities.

3. If that is the case, it is likely Carlos Ortiz, identified as having also been arrested in connection with the slaying of Odin Lloyd. Ortiz has allegedly admitted possessing a firearm in North Attleborough on June 17 and is believed to be one of the men initially questioned by police at Hernandez’ home. Ortiz was arrested at the Connecticut home of of Hernandez’ uncle, the same home searched by police earlier this week. Ortiz waived extradition to Massachusetts, and has a history of convictions for larceny and criminal mischief.

4. Police are also searching Ernest Wallace, who is being described as an accessory after the fact. Wallace is considered armed and dangerous.

5. Finally, police have returned to search Hernandez’ home yet again, this time in relation to the 2012 double homicide.

UPDATE: Ernest Wallace has been captured by police in Miramar, Florida.

Jun 272013
 

Just when you think the case of Aaron Hernandez can’t get any more bizarre, it does, and then does again. Here are the developments just from today:

Aaron Hernandez1. A photo (left) posted on TMZ began making the rounds last night of Hernandez while still at the University of Florida, holding a .45 caliber Glock, trying his best to look the part of a thug.

2. According to Bristol County Assistant District Attorney William McCauley, that same Glock may in fact be the murder weapon. “There was a photo that was shown on the Internet of the defendant holding a Glock .45,” McCauley said. “That Glock… there’s good reason to believe the firearm that killed Mr. Lloyd was a Glock because the Glock has a rifling system that is different than most firearms.” These comments were made today, the same day that Hernandez’ appeal to be allowed bail was denied by Judge Renee Dupuis.

3. According to CNN, Hernandez is now being investigated by authorities for a possible connection to a double slaying in Boston’s South End in July, 2012. This revelation comes a day after authorities executed a search warrant on one of Hernandez’ relatives in Connecticut. According to reports, the Boston Police Department has located and impounded a silver SUV with Rhode Island registration that police have been trying to find for almost a year, that’s linked to the scene of a double homicide in 2012, and investigators believe that Hernandez was renting the SUV at the time of those killings.

All of a sudden, a case that was simply baffling yesterday makes a bit more sense today. It is not much of a stretch to conclude that Odin Lloyd was aware of Hernandez’ role in the 2012 slayings, and that Hernandez feared that Lloyd would end up  revealing Hernandez’ involvement. Yesterday I found myself thinking that it was a huge leap to kill someone simply because they could not be trusted any longer, which was the impression given in the reports that Lloyd had been seen by Hernandez talking to people that Hernandez did not like in a Boston club. But when we add in the notion that Lloyd might have been able to implicate Hernandez in a double homicide, it is much easier to imagine Hernandez reaching the conclusion that he had to kill Lloyd to protect his secret, and it also helps explain the text messages and conversations described by the prosecution in the arraignment yesterday.

With respect to the 2012 killings, investigators believe a fight broke out at Cure, a club in the South End of Boston, between two men and a group that included Hernandez. The two men, Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado, left the club with three other men in a BMW sedan in the early morning hours of July 16, 2012. Abreu, who was driving, stopped at a traffic light on Shawmut Avenue, about to make a left onto Herald Street, when a silver or gray SUV with Rhode Island license plates pulled alongside the sedan. Someone from the SUV opened fire, killing Abreu, 29, and Furtado, 28. It is that SUV that investigators believe they can tie to Hernandez.

All of this, of course, is speculation, and Hernandez is entitled to due process of law and the presumption of innocence. But if it turns out that these dots are connected, and that Hernandez is guilty of three murders, then what we have at hand is probably the single worst criminal professional athlete in the history of the four major sports.

Jun 262013
 

Aaron HernandezAaron Hernandez is not having a good day.

This morning nine officers from the North Attleborough and Massachusetts State Police arrested Aaron Hernandez at his home this morning in connection to the murder of Odin Lloyd, leading him away in handcuffs with Hernandez in red shorts and a white tee shirt. A defiant Hernandez went peacefully into a police cruiser. A video of the arrest can be seen here. Charges have not been released, and are being kept under wraps until his arraignment today.

The New England Patriots wasted no time in responding to the development. Just an hour and a half after his arrest, the Patriots released Hernandez and issued the following 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.”

It is believed that Hernandez’ lack of cooperation with the police investigation led to the police conducting an aggressive arrest in daylight in front of cameras, rather than offering him the opportunity to surrender himself to police. While the criminal process affords Hernandez the right of being presumed innocent until guilt is established beyond a reasonable doubt, in the court of public opinion it is very clear that Hernandez is guilty of something; the only remaining question is “what”.

The Patriots’ decision to release Hernandez is not without consequence to the team. The team will have no opportunity to realize a salary savings in 2013 for Hernandez. The Patriots paid Hernandez a  $12.5 million signing bonus in his 2012 contract extension worth a total of $39 million.  It is unclear as to whether or not the Patriots will try to void the deal paying $3.25 million in a deferred payment due on March 31, 2014, and whether they’ll try to wipe out base-salary guaranteed of $1.323 million in 2013 and $1.137 million in 2014. But in this case, the Patriots believe that taking the moral high road is more important than the money, and it is hard to argue against that point. It’s possible that the Patriots have a sense of the charges to be announced, which at this point one would think would include at least obstruction of justice, but might include conspiracy to commit murder and/or murder.

This article will be updated today as more information becomes available.

UPDATE: According to Pro Football Talk: “For 2013, the Patriots will carry a $2.5 million charge for the portion of his $12.5 million signing bonus, paid last year.  Hernandez’s base salary of $1.323 million is fully guaranteed, and so the cap number will remain $4.073 million unless and until the Patriots can finagle a way to avoid paying him.”

North Attleborough Courthouse

UPDATE: Here’s a picture of the North Attleborough court room where Hernandez will be arraigned. Courtesy of Wesley Lowery of the Boston Globe.

UPDATE: I’ve been watching the arraignment live, and Aaron Hernandez has been formally charged with six counts, including the (first-degree) murder of Odin Lloyd and five related gun charges (carrying a firearm without a license and possession of a large capacity firearm). The prosecutor offered a highly detailed summary of the events and the investigation. I was a little surprised to hear that when the police first arrived and knocked to question Hernandez, he refused to answer the door, and instead watched the police from inside his home. From what is said by the prosecutor, it sounds like at least one of Hernandez’ “associates” flipped on him and provided detailed information about conversations taking place in Hernandez’ home and in his car. Further, the prosecutor can place the murder weapon in Hernandez’ hands, based on his own surveillance system. It should be noted that Hernandez does not possess the necessary permit to own any weapons.

Hernandez ArraignmentBased on the evidence presented, Hernandez would appear to be a calculated and brutal, cold-blooded murderer. To expect to get away with what he is accused of doing suggests that Hernandez is either stupid or just used to getting away with things. During the arraignment, Hernandez stood there looking on, appearing utterly emotionless. If anything, Hernandez appeared bored by the prosecutor’s accounting of the evidence.His only display of emotion was to blow his girlfriend a kiss as he was escorted out of the court room. Hernandez can have his presumption of innocence in the criminal courts, but I couldn’t help but watch these proceedings and believed I was watching a thoroughly evil human being. I can only hope that justice is found in the criminal trial that will be coming.

The prosecutor asked for remand while the defense of course offered that Hernandez was not a flight risk. The judge ultimately decided that Hernandez should be held without bail, to which I wholeheartedly concur. The judge did agree to the defense’s request for a gag order on the case, which seems a sensible precaution for both sides in such a public case.

 

Jun 212013
 

Darrelle Revis13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Head Coach: Greg Schiano
2012 Record: 7-9
2012 Offense: 389 points scored, 13th in points, 9th in yards (10th passing, 15th rushing)
2012 Defense: 394 points allowed, 23rd in points, 29th in yards (32nd passing, 1st rushing)

Key Additions
CB Darrelle Revis, S Dashon Goldson, WR Kevin Ogletree, DT Derek Landri, LB Jonathan Casillas, T Gabe Carimi, RB Brian Leonard, RB Jeff Demps, TE Tom Crabtree, TE Zach Miller, DT Andre Neblett, CB Michael Adams, CB Jonathan Banks, QB Mike Glennon, T Akeem Spence, DE William Gholston

Key Losses
S Ronde Barber, TE Dallas Clark, G Derek Hardman, DT Michael Bennett, DT Corey Irvin, DT Roy Miller, CB EJ Biggers, DB Brandon McDonald, T Jeremy Trueblood, WR Arrelious Benn, RB LeGarrette Blount, LB Quincy Black, RB DJ Ware

Why 2013 will be better
Lavonte David and Mason Foster lead a talented front seven on defense. With the best run defense and the worst passing defense in the league last season, it wasn’t hard to figure out where the Bucs would spend their energies in the off-season. Enter Revis and Goldson, who immediately improve a porous secondary by a lot, and who will serve as anchors for Eric Wright and Mark Barron. Adding Banks brings in depth with a ball-hawking corner. Suddenly a defensive liability looks much improved as long as Revis is healthy, and the Bucs defense promises to be one of the better units in the league. On offense, the line was riddled with injuries in 2012, yet still performed as a top ten offense. With a healthy and deep offensive line, Josh Freeman should have plenty of time to find favorite weapons Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Adding Ogletree is a solid move. Doug Martin had a fantastic rookie season, rushing for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns, as well as catching 49 passes out of the backfield.

Why 2013 will be worse
Freeman has been a model of inconsistency so far in his NFL career, and this is a make or break season for him in Tampa. Glennon is arguably one of the best quarterbacks from a thin quarterback draft, but isn’t ready to take the team over just yet. So the Bucs will live and die this season on a signal-caller who is 11-20 as a starter over the past two seasons with 43 touchdown passes and 39 interceptions. With Dallas Clark gone, the Bucs are thin at tight end, where Luke Stocker is the best choice among few options. Otherwise, the Bucs have a deep roster and appear ready to compete.

Outlook
If we can assume that Josh Freeman simply serves as a neutral force, the Bucs appear prepared to challenge the Falcons and Saints in the NFC South. However, quarterback play is a significant predictor of team success, and the Bucs could go in either direction as a result. They ended 2012 losing five of their last six games, but have dramatically improved their pass defense, assuming Revis returns to a level close to what he played at with the Jets. If the offensive line stays healthy, this team should be in the hunt for a playoff spot. Their window appears to be anywhere from seven to ten wins, but I’ll set the over/under at nine.

Jun 202013
 

Mike Wallace12. Miami Dolphins
Head Coach: Joe Philbin
2012 Record: 7-9
2012 Offense: 288 points scored, 27th in points, 27th in yards (26th passing, 17th rushing)
2012 Defense: 317 points allowed, 7th in points, 21st in yards (27th passing, 13th rushing)

Key Additions
WR Mike Wallace, LB Dannell Ellerbe, LB Philip Wheeler, TE Dustin Keller, WR Brandon Gibson, CB Brent Grimes, T Tyson Clabo, DT Vaughn Martin, DE Dion Jordan, CB Jamal Taylor, OL Dallas Thomas, CB Will Davis

Key Losses
RB Reggie Bush, T Jake Long, LB Karlos Dansby, LB Kevin Burnett, TE Anthony Fasano, CB Sean Smith, WR Davone Bess, DT Tony McDaniel, K Nate Kaeding

Why 2013 will be better
Ryan Tannehill is a promising young quarterback who might well break out this season with weapons like Wallace, Gibson, and Keller added to his arsenal. The offensive line is solid in its depth, though Jonathan Martin has struggled at left tackle. Clabo does offer an upgrade on the right side. Cameron Wake is an elite pass rushing talent, while Dion Jordan has the talent to be a disruptive force on the opposite side. Jordan’s addition to the lineup allows Jared Odrick to move inside along with Randy Starks and Paul Soliai, providing the Dolphins with an excellent defensive line. Brent Grimes was a solid addition to the secondary after returning from a torn ACL in 2012, and will likely start opposite Richard Marshall, though rookie Jamal Taylor looks equipped to push Marshall for the spot. There is little doubt that the Dolphins’ dreadful pass defense will be better in 2013.

Why 2013 will be worse
Tannehill has tons of potential, but was also very inconsistent last season. Lamar Miller enters 2013 as the top running back. While the second year pro has a potential high upside, he saw limited carries in his rookie season and is an untested; at least in the short term he appears to be a downgrade from Reggie Bush. Daniel Thomas can be a good complement to Miller, but only if he can stay healthy. While Ellerbe and Wheeler are touted as an upgrade to the linebacker corps, Ellerbe was a one-trick pony with the Ravens, and the Fins appear to have overpaid for a player who may not have the three down talent that they think he does. Wheeler appears to be the real deal, but doesn’t appear to be an upgrade over Burnett. The Dolphins got younger at linebacker, not necessarily better.

Outlook
Tannehill was sacked 35 times last season, and needs better play from his offensive line to be able to play with the new toys that he has. Tannehill finished his rookie system ranked 27th in the league, but showed numerous flashes of his potential last season. One thing the Dolphins lack is quality depth at offensive skill positions, so health is going to be critical to the team’s offensive success. On defense, the Dolphins need a pass defense to complement a solid run defense, and the upgrades appear to sufficient to accomplish this. At first blush, the worst case for 2013 would appear to be a repeat seven win performance, and the team appears capable of winning as many ten games as they challenge for a playoff spot and seek to depose the Patriots from the AFC East throne.

Jun 202013
 

Aaron HernandezAaron Hernandez is not having a good off-season. To make matters worse, it may be a permanent off-season.

Hernandez visited Gillette Stadium today, amid ongoing reports that he is a suspect in the homicide of 27-year old Odin Lloyd, a friend of the Patriots’ tight end.

Lloyd was one of four men, including Hernandez, who left a Boston bar on the night of the murder. Only three men returned to Hernandez’ house, and Lloyd’s body was found by a jogger early Monday less than a mile from Hernandez’ home. Lloyd was dating the sister of Hernandez’ girlfriend. Police have since noted that Hernandez is directly tied to the homicide, though they have stopped short of labeling him a suspect. Police have searched Hernandez’ residence twice and detained two individuals seeking to leave the property. At least one report places the car driven by Hernandez at the crime scene.

Hernandez, a native of Bristol, Connecticut, played at the University of Florida, where he earned the John Mackey Award as the nation’s best tight end. But Hernandez failed at least one drug test and slipped to the fourth round in the 2010 draft, where the Patriots selected him after having already selected Rob Gronkowski. In three seasons with the Patriots, Hernandez has caught 175 passes for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns, but has missed ten games over that span due to injuries. Hernandez underwent shoulder surgery in April.

Hernandez is also currently involved in a lawsuit for allegedly shooting a man in the face during an altercation at a Miami strip club.

Even if Hernandez is cleared in the current investigation, the NFL will review the case to determine if disciplinary action is needed. The Patriots, never desiring unwanted attention, may well release or trade Hernandez even if he is cleared. I will withhold opinion on this subject until the police have completed their investigation, but it seems fair to say that things are not looking for Hernandez.

UPDATE: It gets worse for Hernandez. ABC News is reporting that Hernandez allegedly destroyed his own home security system, including surveillance data, and destroyed his own cell phone, which has now been turned over to police. Additionally, ABC News reports that a “team of cleaners” was hired on Monday to scrub Hernandez’ home. The situation is getting uglier by the moment.

UPDATE (6/21): According to multiple news reports, an arrest warrant has been issued for Hernandez on obstruction of justice charges. It remains to be seen who the police believe is the shooter. Reports also note that Hernandez’ neighbors heard gunshots on the night of the murder, but no one bothered to call the police. I think it’s fair to say that the Commissioner’s office will lower the boom on Hernandez, and at the very least he will be suspended for the entirety of the 2013 season. Whether or not the Patriots choose to keep the troubled tight end is another story.

Jun 182013
 

Mike McCoy11. San Diego Chargers
Head Coach: Mike McCoy
2012 Record: 7-9
2012 Offense: 350 points scored, 20th in points, 31st in yards (24th passing, 27th rushing)
2012 Defense: 350 points allowed, 16th in points, 9th in yards (18th passing, 6th rushing)

Key Additions
Head Coach Mike McCoy, T Max Starks, LB Dwight Freeney, G Chad Rinehart, T King Dunlap, CB Derek Cox, RB Danny Woodhead, G Rich Ohrnberger, DE Jarius Wynn, LB Thomas Keiser, LB DJ Smith, DB Cornelius Brown, DB Johny Patrick, T DJ Fluker, LB Manti Te’o, WR Keenan Allen, WR Luke Tasker

Key Losses
T Jared Gaither, WR Michael Spurlock, TE Randy McMichael, TE Dante Rosario, T Kevin Haslam, G Tyronne Greene, G Rex Hadnot, G Louis Vasquez, LB Shaun Phillips, LB Takeo Spikes, LB Demorrio Williams, CB Chris Carr, CB Antoine Cason, DB Quentin Jammer, DB Corey Lynch, LB Antwan Barnes, DB Atari Bigby, DT Aubrayo Franklin, DT Vaughn Martin

Why 2013 will be better
The Chargers are getting a lot of hype for a solid draft class that includes Fluker, Te’o, and Allen. Allen and Tasker offer relief to Malcolm Floyd, assuming the revamped line can keep Philip Rivers on his feet long enough to find them. The defensive line features seven new defensive ends going into camp, but the Chargers give the appearance of throwing bodies at their pass rush issues, hoping that someone will stick. Running back Ryan Matthews is loaded with talent but has underachieved so far, meaning new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt needs to motivate Matthews to do better while they hope he stays healthy. Woodhead is a great change of pace back with reliable hands and big play potential. Still, “better” in the case of this year’s Chargers might simply mean another 7-9 season.

Why 2013 will be worse
I happen to love visiting the city of San Diego, but my friendly Chargers’ fan friends who reside there may be in for another long season. The roster changes for San Diego look like “garbage in, garbage out.” The offensive line, which yielded 49 sacks in 2012, did not get dramatically better with the additions of Starks, Rinehart, and Dunlap. DJ Fluker looks poised to grab the right tackle spot, but it looks like another year of living on the edge for Rivers. The line also failed to open running lanes, as Chargers’ running backs were held to just 3.6 yards per carry a season ago, second worst in the league. The line will need to improve dramatically if the 31st ranked offense from last season is going to fare any better in 2013. Starks played every game for Pittsburgh last season, but will not be much of an upgrade. He struggled in the Steelers’ passing game last season and has never been an exceptional run blocker. On defense, the Chargers were the fourth worst team in the league on third down conversions, and the turnover on linebackers to bring in Freeney and Te’o as complements to Donald Butler and Jarret Johnson may work out for San Diego, but it seems to have just as much potential to implode, especially after the Chargers lost LB Melvin Ingram to a torn ACL this spring.

Outlook
It seems very hard to make the argument that the Chargers got noticeably better over the course of the off-season. Mike McCoy has his hands full this season, trying to fix a broken offense while trying to maintain a decent defense that is undergoing significant turnover. San Diego seems to be in a re-building phase in a division where the Broncos are dominant and the Chiefs are improving. A window of five to seven wins seems likely.

Jun 182013
 

Nick CelliniAtlanta sports radio station 790 The Zone has fired hosts Stephen “Steak” Shapiro, Nick Cellini, and Chris Dimino for an unbelievably tasteless skit taking shots at former former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason, who is battling Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

During the skit, the hosts staged a fictitious guest appearance by Gleason (performed by Cellini), pretending that Gleason was using a voice synthesizer to sound like Stephen Hawking. “Gleason” then went on to say, “I wish I could play”, “I may not be here on Thursday”, “Smother me… do me a favor”, and “I’m going to Hell” in a short skit that wouldn’t be funny even if the material wasn’t outrageous. Pro Football Talk (PFT) and other sites have shared a link to the “bit”, and I have listened to it. I’m not going to bother to share the link; you can find it if you want to, but it’s really not worth listening to.

For it’s part, the station first suspended the trio, then followed up with this statement: “We deeply regret the offensive programming that aired this morning on ‘Mayhem In The AM’ on 790 The Zone, related to former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason and his battle with ALS. We suspended the three individuals involved immediately following their comments and have since terminated their employment. 790 The Zone, our owners, sponsors and partners in no way endorse or support this kind of content. We sincerely apologize to Mr. Gleason, his family and all those touched by ALS.”

790 The Zone absolutely did the right thing in terminating these morons. And for anyone wishing to allege that this is political correctness run amuck, or that the hosts have the right of free speech, a couple of thoughts. First, some things aren’t funny; especially when they involve physical or mental ailments that a person cannot control. Whether it is Gleason’s ALS, or Rush Limbaugh shaking like a rag doll when making fun of Michael J. Fox, it’s just not funny. And sure, this is America and people can say what they want for the most part, but freedom of speech does not equate to freedom from responsibility. The radio station is a business driven by advertising, and the station was well aware of the fact that sponsors would likely walk (and should have) if the station did not take strong action. This was on company time, not personal time, and I am glad the station did the right thing. What remains to be seen now is whether or not these idiots get rewarded with a show on ESPN.

I hope I’m kidding.