Posted June 26, 2013

Aaron Hernandez saga just the latest dark cloud hovering over Pats

New England Patriots
The Patriots could be missing Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski at points this season. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The Patriots could be missing Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski at points this season. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Fort Belichick is in disarray.

Already, the franchise that espouses the fundamental (if somewhat ambiguous) “Patriot Way” mantra had endured an unusually tumultuous offseason. And that was before tight end Aaron Hernandez, less than a year removed from signing a pricey contract extension, became a possible suspect in the murder of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd and was released by the Patriots Wednesday.

The Patriots’ mystique may be waning, and not just because of the potentially serious legal issues facing Hernandez and his subsequent release. This offseason has been unusually tumultuous for one of the league’s more sure-footed franchises.

New England entered its offseason earlier than expected, following a humbling playoff home loss to the Ravens — the Patriots’ eighth consecutive postseason trip that ended without a Super Bowl ring and their third time in the past four years falling on their home turf. Then, Wes Welker bolted for rival Denver, Alfonzo Dennard was sentenced to 30 days in jail for assaulting a police officer and Rob Gronkowski became a frequent guest of the surgical community.

All of that (and the questions about New England’s 2013 prospects that followed) occurred before Hernandez’s home landed front and center in a murder investigation. That Hernandez’s dreadful situation has happened less than a year after he signed a pricey contract extension will make the front office even more uneasy.

There are more pressing matters at hand, particularly in regards to Hernandez, but football minds can ask with the Patriots a month away from reconvening for camp: Is this team ready for a fall?

BURKE: What’s next for Patriots after Hernandez’s release?

The rest of the AFC East certainly hopes so, having watched New England roll to back-to-back-to-back-to-back division crowns. Miami spent big money to chase a playoff berth; Buffalo switched coaching staffs and landed a QB, E.J. Manuel, it hopes finally can be a franchise guy at that position; the Jets, though with myriad issues of their own, did the same by drafting Geno Smith.

Those three teams should feel that the door to first place has propped open, if only because the Patriots’ own title window might have closed a bit.

The Patriots will have to fight that perception, at least, as they start the coming season with questions at wide receiver and tight end (if Rob Gronkowski isn’t on the field in Week 1, the Patriots will open the season without their five leading receivers from last year), cornerback (where the team only added third-rounder Logan Ryan to a group that finished 29th against the pass last year) and off the field.

New England has the type of leadership to weather the storm — Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork and others provide necessarily steady hands. Still, there is enough for the Patriots to be concerned about on the field, especially after cutting their talented tight end.

What must Brady think of his team’s recent news? The future Hall of Famer has survived, sometimes even thrived, with an underwhelming cast of characters around him — like the 2004 Super Bowl run, with David Givens and David Patten as the team’s leading receivers.

That was a decade ago, though. The soon-to-be 36-year-old QB has proven he has plenty left in the tank, and yet the latest incarnation of the Patriots’ offense was designed around Welker’s capabilities in the slot, Hernandez’s versatility and Gronkowski’s elite abilities as a combo pass-catcher/blocker. What happens if Brady has to enter the season without any of those players available to him? (No, Tim Tebow’s not about to dominate as a tight end.)

Admittedly, asking the question “Who will catch Tom Brady’s passes?” is a gross simplification of New England’s situation. Belichick has never shied away from rolling the dice on red-flagged players. Plenty of those gambles have paid off, too, but maybe there’s a more fundamental issue at play.

Maybe the Patriots, by turning a blind eye to Hernandez’s sketchy past, set themselves up for some of these problems.

New England likely will head into the 2013 season as the favorite again within the AFC East, if not one of the expected contenders in the conference. The outlook in Foxboro, however, is far from sunny.

If there is still exists a “Patriot Way,” now would be the ideal time to rediscover it.

158 comments
xGen7
xGen7

I don't think Hernandez takes away from the term "Patriot Way". Now, if they would have kept him on the team then yes, they'd clearly be putting football before morality here, but the guy was fired just after his arrest. I don't think taking a chance on someone who they thought could change for the better means the Patriots have lost their way.

Hernandez betrayed their trust, the only thing the Patriots are guilty of is taking a chance.

MattMichaud
MattMichaud

Explain to me tumultuous????......we lost a WR in free agency to another team. A concussion case smaller WR that we didn't want to pay....who we then replaced with a similar guy. One of our TE's had surgery...yea he's an idiot but off season surgery happens. The other TE is allegedly killing dudes...can't really predict that...not a whole lot you can do there.

Otherwise explain to me where the tumult is?? Is it in our entire offensive line returning? Is it in our solid 2 RBs? Is it in the same shaky secondary that added great depth?? Please EXPLAIN TO ME where you see the tumult??


Footballboater
Footballboater

Mr Burke, doom and gloom. End of a team that has more wins than any team in the last 12 years? We swapped slot receivers, older Welker for a younger Welker clone. We have Ballard (former giant) along with fells and possible tebow as tightends, a couple veterans at WR. True stable of proven running backs, returning online, another year under the same offense coordinator. Returning defense with solid 3-6year players who are better prepared for the up coming season, this team will continue to proven that Patroits way is still healthy and strong.

'

6marK6
6marK6

I do think there is a certain degree of hypocrisy here. I mean, every media outlet in America went absolutely gah-gah over Ray Lewis this year, I mean they just worshiped him like he was the Almighty. Please, tell me the difference between that sack of crap and Hernandez?

djchris386
djchris386

The COWBOYS are America's team; the Pattrash are the DOC inmates'' team. This article left out the dumping of Kyle Love, the day he informed "Coach/Cheat" he had diabetes. Also, Brady's loathsome behavior. Belichick is probably testing out new ways to play OUTSIDE the rules; the Pattrash big wins came while Belichick was monitoring other coaches, illegally. Tebow in no more than a ruse for the Pattrash to look "legit". With Belichick's criminal smarts, it may be impossible, but it would be great to see the Jags stomp womanizer Brady in honor of Kyle Love. Brady quits playing when injured; let him trip over his ego, and sprain his big toe. He'll be out for the season, vacationing with the rejected foul mouthed Hollywood party girl he married.

Jimbo808
Jimbo808

Patriots are America's Team.

 No Mountains are Insurmountable For them.

I'm  Sure That Come to Februbary,They will Lift the Lombardi Trophy.

Mike26
Mike26

Mark, might I suggest you just post comments and questions and respond to them yourself.  You just keep repeating the same 2007 spiel over and over - and here I thought vinyls records were dead!

Mike26
Mike26

Anyone who dares to question ANYTHING Patriot will have to face the wrath of Mark McClure, Patriot Superfan.  (He's actually quite similar in nature to Howard Stern's Superfans!)  I pity the fools that have to face his Patriotic fury - it will make you beg for a full-armor assault from the Marines instead!

gary41
gary41

The loss of key receiving personnel is well documented.  Can inexperienced receivers step up?  For most teams the answer is some do, but most do not.  The problem is too many need to step up--an unlikely situation under normal circumstances.  In the case of the Patriots, the towering figure that can make a difference is Tom Brady.  It might be a good idea to do everything possible to protect this man.   

K-Jun
K-Jun

Patriots and University of Alabama are similar. Both are considered great teams BUT neither ever play a tough schedule during the regular season. Do a comparison and you will have to agree that I am correct. If Patriots had to play schedules of the NFL West they would not be in playoffs each and every year. If Alabama had to play the schedule of the likes of Tennessee, LSU and others Nick Saban would be wearing depends. 


K-Jun
K-Jun

I agree it is a quarterback on a team not a black or white quarterback. Media needs to get off that bandwagon. Sure the Patriots have some concern as they could lose a good tight end during this process. Certainly "Goody" Goodell will suspend Hernandez for some games because of his involvement. That is just the way he is. 

Hopefully, some other teams will see unjustified wrath by Goodell so they know and feel how it is to be screwed by this so call commissioner for something you either did not do or something that was of no consequence. Referring to his handling of the Saints. He had nothing but because of the lawsuits being filed by players who probably spent all of their earnings he felt he needed to do something to indicate he was working on the problem of concussions. 

MattC1
MattC1

Wow, now the wheels are coming off?? Stupid article. Probably THE best team since the Cap and si wants to drag it to.... A stupid article. One man does not make a Team. Si just got through showering praise on the Baltimore killer, buts it's the Patriots so there's no hope and doom. You guys stink. All this comes down to what Espn and the press Think we should listen to. It's accidental homicide. Playing with a weapon and it discharged. Hiding the body was the friends gig and that is the crime. All the hate by writers puts money in the bank.

nighthang
nighthang

Not shocked. NFL is full of thugs. 

OK
OK

Notice not one syllable from SI's NFL boss, Peter King, on the Hernandez murder fiasco.

Word has it that King and Tom Brady's damage control staff have been burning up their cellphones and e-mails plotting how best to spin this tail away from The White Quarterback and to, in fact, make Brady the "hero, fighting against the odds" in this allegedly criminal tale.

MarkMcClure
MarkMcClure

Peter King did a study at the end of 2007......after "spygate" Belichicks winning % INCREASED 25 points which proved he was never cheating in the first place!!! The Patriots are Still THE CLASSIEST ORGANIZATION in sports. Period. 

Jfdjr
Jfdjr

Yo, djchris, America's Team? Really? Do you seriously believe that a team with the record your 'boys have had since '97 could be America's Team? You'll continue to suck until you lose that narcissist who owns the team and has run it into the ground. I hope you'll be comfortable on your couch when the playoffs arrive. I'll be waiting to hear more news about that sterling citizen, Dez. It's just a matter of time. Your team is mediocre at best. That's not changing anytime soon. Texas is not America. Enjoy your Summer in Mexico USA!

vikingsfan77
vikingsfan77

@djchris386 Really?? really uhmm it seems to me that the cowgirls have more people in legal trouble then the patriots and have for several years.  When will people let the stupid unproven spygate cheating crap go.  That is not why they won those Superbowls.  Kyle Love's lack of off season conditiong is why the Patriots decided to let him go which also contributed to his diabetes.

Footballboater
Footballboater

Cowboys? Don't they drive each other around drunk? Then kill fellow players and are welcome back on to the sidelines?

DustinHughes
DustinHughes

@K-Jun The NFL west has been good for one year.. LAST YEAR.. This maybe but we will see! As far as Alabama all I need to say is SEC!

Footballboater
Footballboater

Dude....the patriots have played at least 5 teams each of the last 7years, that made the playoffs the same season, or the previous year, then you have 6 division teams and then what the league tells you to play....easy schedule?.

Get real

John64
John64

@K-Jun  This is a typical refrain I keep hearing from people who generally dislike the Patriots for whatever reasons.  First of all, yes, we know the Jets, Bills and Dolphins haven't exactly been world-beaters lately (never mind that the Jets went to the AFC championship back-to-back in 2009 & 2010), but that's just 6 games for NE- there are still 10 other teams to play.  

Secondly, comparing a college team's schedule to an NFL team's schedule? LMAO!! Are you a moron?  There's a reason why the phrase isn't "Any given Saturday"...  Welcome to the NFL, where a mediocre 5-8 team can beat a 13-0 team (yes, that happened in 2011).  You won't see that in the NCAA.

And then you bring up the "NFL West" (I assume you meant the NFC West) which was a JOKE prior to 2011. 

What's your idea of an "tough" NFL schedule exactly? How about the fact that the Patriots have played both Super Bowl teams (except themselves) every season since 2006.  How about the fact that, in 2010, they played the Steelers, Jets x2, Packers and Bears-- all 4 conference championship teams-- and they beat all four of them.     

Mike26
Mike26

@K-Jun K-Jun:


What you don't know about accountability and fair play is virtually all there is to know about it.  I'm sure that Goodell is up late at night knowing that so many K-Juns are hating on him...

Steve81
Steve81

@MattC1 So you were there when the murder took place? Maybe you ought to be giving interviews to the cops instead of writing mindless drivel online.

vikingsfan77
vikingsfan77

@OK "The White Quarterback" ??? Last time I checked the majority of the Quarterbacks are white, he's not alone for sure.  Have you not been reading King the past few years he takes shots at Brady when warented, but for someone of his caliber those are few and very far between.

DustinHughes
DustinHughes

@OK WTF this makes no sense what so ever, this has nothing to do with Brady yet you are attacking him? The White Quarterback when did the color of any ones skin get mentioned in the article or ever for that matter when it comes to Tom Brady..not to mention name one thing Brady has ever did wrong to anyone (beside maybe put up 400 yards passing and multiple TDs on your team) that would make you hate on him!!

John64
John64

@OK   LOL... "word has it", huh?  Really? And where did that "word" come from? Your inner anus?  

The "White Quarterback"?  WOW... yeah, let's take this story and spin into a racist attack against a guy who has absolutely nothing to do with it, other than happening to be one of Hernandez' teammates.  BRA-VO...

SRB
SRB

@OKIf you'd been paying the least bit of attention, you would know that PK is on his annual vacation, and isn't writing about anything at all.  I'm no Pats fan, but your conspiracy theory is as bogus as it gets.

KarenCounterman
KarenCounterman

@OK How is having a story about the possible criminal activity of Aaron Hernandez have anything to do with "The White Quarterback", Tom Brady?  Why are you even dragging his name into this?  I guess we can all come to the same conclusion as to why; you stated it so eloquently when you wrote, 'THE WHITE QUARTERBACK".


John4
John4

@MarkMcClure Mark - time for a new message.  Your old one is so tired and worn out.  You may have forgotten a few stats, and you have certainly NEVER wrote about them.  So, here they are:  Patriots SB win percentage prior to Spygate but with Belichik:  100%.  Patriots SB win percentage after Spygate but still with Belichik:  0%.  Hmmm.  

CliffKuster
CliffKuster

How many super bowls have they won since spy gate. There a bunch of cheats as classless as it gets.

CliffKuster
CliffKuster

How many super bowls have they won since spy gate. There a bunch of cheats as classless as it gets.

CliffKuster
CliffKuster

How many super bowls have they won since spy gate

eltex.tx
eltex.tx

@MarkMcClure Wait, is the Patriot's success defined by regular season wins, or by Superbowl Rings? I guess you are not much for the post season...

Scramble
Scramble

@MarkMcClure Look at the division they play in. Swap the Patriots and Cleveland and see if you still get the same results.

djchris386
djchris386

@John64 @djchris386 Never cared much for the Cowboys; a disabled young man, good friend of mine, likes them, got me interested in football beyond the Crimson* & Gators again. When my daddy was alive, it was Miami, Bucs. I'm trying to learn more about the Jaguars and get interested. 


*CRIMSON, not Crimson tide. 

OK
OK

@John64

Fact remains, King kisses up to The White Quarterback at every turn. Just a month ago, for example:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/nfl/news/20130520/tom-brady-peter-king-monday-morning-quarterback/#ixzz2X3UYJ2Gk

Brady more confident than ever as Patriots need him more than ever

Peter King

Monday Morning Quarterback

Sports Illustrated

Posted: Mon May 20, 2013 12:07AM; Updated: Mon May 20, 2013 12:11PM

Considering what a transcendent talent Tom Brady is, the career he's had, and that he turns 36 in 11 weeks, this statement he made to me over the weekend is significant: "Going into my 14th year, I have never had more confidence in how I am throwing the football. I've never felt better throwing the football."

It's May. Brady has averaged 36 touchdowns, eight picks and 4,654 passing yards over his last three seasons, and he feels better about his arm and his mechanics than he ever has. Were those shudders I just felt coming out of Orchard Park, Florham Park and South Florida?

Brady doesn't talk much in the offseason, and in the past few years he's come out of his shell around this time to talk about his charity of choice: Best Buddies, a worldwide volunteer movement that fosters friendship between the larger society and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and engenders employment opportunities for them.

#######

Johnny, again, the facts and the factual history are on my side. You're only left with slurs and online references to proctology. Try to improve, if you can.

OK
OK

@SRB

No computers on vacation? Yeah, right.

And King will come back with a glowing piece of BS about how the poor, beleaguered Tom Brady worked hard to save the misguided, troubled Aaron Hernandez and lead the Patriots and the NFL to even greater glory.

King will do what the NFL and Brady's hacks tell him to do. Period.

Brett Kos
Brett Kos

@John4 John - time for a new message.  49ers SB win percentage since 2007 (spygate): 0%, Texans SB appearance percentage since 2007:  0%, Peyton Mann SB win percentage since 2007:  0% and I can go on and on.  Hmmm.

Brett Kos
Brett Kos

@eltex.tx Wait, has there only been 6 Superbowl winners since 2007?  Those teams that haven't gotten a ring (49ers, Seahawks, Green Bay, Texans) must be terrible.  I guess you are not much for thinking...

DustinHughes
DustinHughes

@Scramble @MarkMcClure how would you not??? They beat the Steelers plenty of times, they have beaten the Ravens plenty of times, and they have destroyed the Bengals many many times...

Footballboater
Footballboater

But the browns would not play division leaders the following season......that increase includes, playoffs...which the browns haven't been in for some time. Then factor in a 18 &1 season along with play off each year (minus a 11&5 season ) no other team has managed to do the same. Please the Patroits have a winning formula. Coach bill is the best in the business

John64
John64

@OK  So does that keep you up at nights? Do you wake up in a cold sweat just thinking about King having no journalistic integrity and that he likes a lot of "white quarterbacks"?  Wow... racist much?

Back to your deep-seated hatred for white people, Mandingo.

OK
OK

@John64

The two-word password is Journalistic Integrity.

Without it, King's nothing more than a hump for the NFL and the White Quarterback.

Back to your proctology, Johnny.

John64
John64

I seriously doubt that the "white quarterback" is gong anywhere near Hernandez right now, much less working hard to save him.  The "white quarterback" is most likely doing what he has to do to get ready for the upcoming season, whether Hernandez is a part of that or not.


John64
John64

@OK  So the FACT is that Peter King loves him some Tom Brady. Yeah, I'll go with that. I'd say that sounds about right, Captain Obvious.  And guess what?  King also loves him some Peyton, Brees, Rodgers and a whole host of other good/great NFL QBs, including, but not limited to, Otto Graham, who King feels is the greatest QB of all-time.  My question to you then would be, WHO CARES?

What does King's love of Tom Brady and great NFL QBs have to do with Hernandez' situation?  Nothing.  And why do you even care?  

DustinHughes
DustinHughes

@OK @SRB I cant even think of anything more to say to you other than you are a idiot!

John4
John4

@Brett Kos Brett - I am dreadfully sorry to tell you that your comment makes no sense.  Please confine your comments to the Patriots   

I get a kick out of people who can't defend the the facts at hand.  They illogically ask about something else.  What do the Texans and/or Peyton Manning have to do with the Patriots being caught cheating in what is known as Spygate?  Nothing.  Brett - stop being a democrat, and reply about the post as it is.  

As far as the message of the Patriots playoff failure post Spygate, and it IS a failure compared to pre Spygate, that will NEVER stop being discussed.  The Patriots cheated.  Everyone knows it.  When you act like they didn't or ask about other teams or QBs, it just proves that you don't have a defense for the cheating Patriots and Spygate.  It is what it is.  

John64
John64

@eltex.tx  Revisionist history is a wonderful (and convenient) thing...  

eltex.tx
eltex.tx

@Brett Kos sorry brett kiss, you just don't get it. but now that you mention it, the seahaws, texans and 49ers have failed every year for a long time. sure, they make the playoffs now and then, but all that does is get them a worse draft pick. The original quote was from marky mark, and he said since the win % went up since spygate, the pats didn't cheat. to me, it says something different. It says that where the cheating really came into play was in the playoffs and superbowl, not as much in the regular season. also, the overall decline of the pats division has helped boost their regular season record.

Brett Kos
Brett Kos

@eltex.tx man, eltex is clueless.  You stated success is measured by Superbowl wins (as your reply).  Guess what?  49ers, Seahawks, Texans have as much post season success as the Patriots so by your definition they are not successful.  No go back into your mom's basement.

eltex.tx
eltex.tx

@Brett Kos man, I thought Mark was the only one here that was clueless. Read his post, and read my reply. At what point did I say any team was terrible? Now go back into your hole.