In a time of hope and positivity heading into July training camps where
most are speaking of game plans and football schemes, the New England Patriots
camp has been riddled with words like murder, gangs and
What happened to the “Patriot Way?” What happened to the
importance of character and hard-nosed football? What happened to the
mentality of “do your job”? Those old Patriots standards are
being challenged in New England.
The questions and accusations continue, even after swift action was
taken by the organization to cut Tight End Aaron Hernandez
after being arrested in connection with the murder of Semi-Pro Football
player Odin Lloyd.
Was the quick action that the Patriots took a mark of “Setting the
example” for malcontents or was it just damage control for something
When the Patriots drafted Aaron Hernandez in the Fourth round in of the
2010 NFL Draft, they knew what his checkered past was all about. They
knew of his trouble with the law and alleged problems with controlled
Hernandez even wrote the New England Patriots a letter asking them to
take a chance on the troubled tight end telling them to “trust him”
when it came to his alleged illegal substance abuse of his past.
This past week, Robert
Kraft stated to a select group of Boston
reporters that if the charges against Aaron Hernandez were true, then
he felt that the Patriots organization was “duped” by former Florida
Mr. Kraft, felt duped by Hernandez? This does not make a lot
of sense seeing that he knew what kind of character that the team was
investing in when he was awarded with an extension worth over $40
million dollars. It seems that was done, knowing this individual wasn’t
as clean-cut as one would have hoped.
Key phrases describing Hernandez have come out of Patriots camp
recently. Terms like “loner” and descriptions that he did not
“fit into the organization” or that he lashed out at teammates. It was
clear Hernandez never bonded with the team.
Kraft might have been tricked into thinking that Hernandez was reformed
as a person but -- like many other NFL clubs – his organization turned
a blind eye on the character issues when it came to putting talent on
the field. Big plays by superstar athletes are part of the
game that fans around the world love watching week after week.
Kraft probably thought his decision to offer Hernandez a huge extension
last season and less than a year later cut him because he’s seen as a
bad seed, where choices he had to make. His hand was forced
by circumstances beyond his control.
Did the quick release cover the mistake of taking too big a risk on a
‘questionable’ character? Or was it simply done to avoid answering the
PR nightmare of questions about the maligned ex-tight end?
The “Patriot Way” was a well-known concept of superior play on the
field accomplished by quality characters making those plays.
But, when you look at the off-field antics of some of the players in
recent Patriots history, the “Patriot Way” has led to a dead end.
Moss was a model citizen in New England after the Raiders
opted to get rid of him for a poor attitude.
The Patriots have had the ability to take in players that were
considered risks in the past -- names like Randy Moss, Corey
-- and turn them into card-carrying members of the
“Patriot Way”. But, even though those signings were risky,
they were gambles that paid off.
Every team in the NFL has players that are drawn to a lifestyle that is
conducive to flaunting the law and exposes the individuals to
paternally compromising legal situations. They are time bombs
waiting to happen. The teams take these players, do a great
job of promoting these individuals because they are helping the team
perform but each of them are one incident from exploding into a
nightmare scenario like the Hernandez situation.
Star athletes, many who hail from an underprivileged background, find a
way to succeed through athletics. The system rewards those
who can help a team win. From scholarships and multiple
offers during their college recruiting days, to being Drafted by an NFL
Franchise, these are ways players like Aaron Hernandez find a way to
earn multi-million dollar paychecks just to play football. Genetics
gave them their athleticism, but who’s teaching them how to walk down
the right path of life?
Teams will tell you that they have programs in place to combat these
individuals from going down the wrong path when they join the ranks of
the NFL. They will also tell you that they are aware of and
work closely with these young players to groom them to become better
role models. But let’s face the facts, if your thug players
are hanging with thug friends and living a thug lifestyle (sprinkle $40
million dollars in there) then bad things will eventually happen.
Since the Superbowl this past winter, there have been 29 arrests in the
NFL ranging from manslaughter, drugs, spousal abuse and most recently
murder. The NFL will put a spin on it and say that it is
common and they are working on it but it is a violent theme behind the
protected “shield” of the NFL.
Teams look the other way when their players are more violent and
aggressive because the product on the field puts people in the seats
and sells tickets. When it finally blows up in their faces
and their stars go to jail or are in courts they are surprised and
bring in the harshest penalties to save face.
The New England Patriots are not an organization that actively seeks
out athletes with character issues just ‘because.’ Like any
team in the NFL, they’re willing to lower their barrier to entry a
little to allow characters into the locker room if the general
consensus is that they’ll be able to reap the rewards without
incident. Such was the case with Aaron Hernandez, a player
many vouched for, but who let everyone down with his off-field antics.
The “holier than thou” reputation in New England has taken a
Claiming to be duped by a shady character from the University of
Florida is ridiculous. The Patriots, and other NFL
organizations, know exactly what they are getting into taking chances
on these players.
Now it is time to admit to what the reality is.
Sometimes the end doesn’t justify the means. Sometimes a
turd, even a polished one, is still a turd.
Shane Leketa is
a lifelong Patriots fan who can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MyPatspace
and also on twitter @MyPatsSpace
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