Curran: Guilty or not, Hernandez may pay price

Curran: Guilty or not, Hernandez may pay price
June 20, 2013, 12:30 pm
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Aaron Hernandez’s transformation from “not a suspect” to allegedly on the brink of arrest took all of two days.
 
And the notion that the next uniform we see him in may be an orange jumpsuit is not that far-fetched.
 
Even if Hernandez is ultimately absolved of all wrongdoing or admits a role in the Odin Lloyd case in exchange for leniency, Hernandez’ 2013 football season and, possibly, his NFL career are in real jeopardy.
 
What about “innocent until proven guilty?”

That’s in a courtroom with a judge presiding, not in the court of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or, for that matter, the luxurious office of Robert Kraft.
 
The Patriots love TV time for their facility. But sky-eye video of Hernandez driving his white SUV from his North Attleboro home to Gillette Stadium on Thursday is not what they have in mind for the all-important brand.
 
The Patriots have cut ties with players for a lot less than what Hernandez appears to have himself embroiled in. And while those players may not have carried the same import to the program, the scale could easily tip on Hernandez into “not worth keeping him” territory.
 
Then will come the grab for the signing bonus in Hernandez’s contract. That was $12.5 million in a seven-year, $41 million deal signed just 10 months ago.
 
As for actually playing?
 
Again, he doesn’t have to be found guilty of anything for that privilege to be taken away.
 
Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t arrested for either of the alleged sexual assaults he was accused of in 2009 and 2010, but Goodell still suspended the Steelers’ quarterback for six games at the start of the 2010 season. His suspension was reduced to four games.
 
Not guilty or not directly involved does not mean, “No problem, business as usual.”
 
How does Hernandez go from a player the Patriots lavished an extension on last August to this week’s proceedings?
 
To put it plainly, he’s either in the wrong place at the wrong time or a monumental fraud.
 
Digest what Hernandez had to say last August after being signed to his extension and immediately gave Kraft $50,000 back as a donation to the Patriots Charitable Foundation.

"He didn't need to give me the amount that he gave me, and knowing that he thinks I deserve that, he trusts me to make the right decisions, it means a lot,” said Hernandez. "It means he trusts my character, and the person I am, which means a lot, cause my mother, that's how she wanted to raise me. They have to trust you to give you that money. I just feel a lot of respect and I owe it back to him. Not only is it $50,000, cause that's not really, that's just the money that really doesn't mean much, with the amount given, it's more, I have a lot more to give back, and all I can do is play my heart out for them, make the right decisions, and live life as a Patriot."
 
Said Kraft at the time, "I just think he's a super player, and really a first-class guy. Some people might see all the tattoos on him and think. . . . Maybe 10 years ago I was in that class, (now) I think 'Wow, this guy's a good guy.' And we made a big commitment to him."
 
A league source has indicated to me on Wednesday, though, that Hernandez has been a full-time project for the Patriots in terms of trying to keep him focused and monitoring his decision-making.
 
Said a former teammate on Wednesday night, “He’s always been his own worst enemy.”