Hernandez overwhelmed by emotion following extension

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Hernandez overwhelmed by emotion following extension

FOXBORO -- Aaron Hernandez was at the Patriots Charitable Foundation's Kickoff Gala Monday night. Just hours removed from finalizing a five-year, 37.5 million dollar contract extension, the 22-year old tight end was, happily, an emotional mess.

His reaction:

"It's a lifelong dream. Still kind of surreal, but taking it in over the next few days, months, years... It's just a blessing. Hopefully, I make the right decisions with it and have a good life.
"As soon as we started talking about my contract I was emotional from that day on. Honestly, it's hard for me here to stay, keeping my mind off it like I said, it's surreal. Probably when I'm done with this conversation I'll have tears in my eyes. But it's real and it's an honor."

Why is it surreal?

AH: "You always dream of it but you never really think it's going to come. When it happens, you know there's a good chance you're set for life as long as you handle it the right way. It's an honor. It seems so surreal like, 'Is it really true?' It's just a dream and knowing I can help my family -- they're the ones that I love -- it's an honor."

Did fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski's contract -- a six-year, 54 million deal -- lead you to think you might be next?

AH: "I knew it was coming, because when Gronk got it, I knew there was a good chance I was next in line. Now that it happened, it's definitely a blessing. Take it in and I'm excited to go on.

"Me and Gronk are very close. Honestly, when he got paid tears came to my eyes because knowing his life is changed forever. Gronk's a great kid he probably doesn't even realize he's set for life. Laughs He lives life, he's such a happy person and he makes everyone around him have a good time just by his presence. I was happy for him.

"Even that day, just knowing there was an opportunity for me to make a good money like him brought tears to my eyes. Now that this day is here that I've been waiting for my whole life, I've been working and going through all my struggles to get here. It's just a blessing."

What did you tell your family?

AH: "I called them and told them what the contract was and the basics about it. They were all crying. I was crying right with them. This is probably one of the best days of my life; I'll remember this day forever. I just hope I keep going, doing the right things, and making the right decisions so I can have a good life and be there to live a good life with my family."

You donated 50,000 to Robert Kraft's foundation. Why?

AH: "It's just He changed my life. Now I basically have a good chance to be set for life, and have a good life. I have a daughter on the way, and a family that I love, and it's just knowing that they're going to be okay because I was happy playing for my 250,000-400,000. Knowing that my kids and my family will be able to have a good life, go to college, it's just an honor that he did that for me, he gave me that opportunity. 50,000 to help his foundation, obviously, it's basically saying thank you and it means a lot to me."

"He changed my life. He personally He's the one who has the final decision. Him saying, 'I want you around here for the next seven years,' since it's a five-year extension, is that he wants me a part of his family. I'm a part of the Patriots family. He set me up for life. He didn't need to give me the amount he gave me. Knowing he thinks I deserve that and he trust me to make the right decisions, it means a lot. It means he trusts my character and the person I am, which means a lot. My mother that's how she raised me. I just feel a lot of respect and I owe it back to them. Not only is it 50,000 that's just the money that doesn't mean much, it's the amount given. all I can do is play my heart out for them and make the right decisions and live like a Patriot."

This deal will take you into the prime of your career. How does this deal impact you as a football player?

AH: "I couldn't be with a better franchise. I know Tom Brady's going to be around for a while. I love the coaches, I'm close to my family, the whole organization is actually an organization. A lot of places are called organizations, but are they really organized? This is a place that not only did it change my future from paying me, but it just changed me as a person. You can't come here and act reckless and do your own stuff, and I was one of the persons that I might have come here and acted the way I wanted to act, but you get changed by Bill Belichick's way, you get changed by the Patriot way. Now that I'm a Patriot I have to start living like one and making the right decisions for them."

Bean: The 2007 Patriots don't get nearly enough love

Bean: The 2007 Patriots don't get nearly enough love

Phil Perry has been running a series on the 2007 Patriots vs. the 2017 Patriots. He breaks everything down position-by-position and compares what should go down as two of the best teams in franchise history. It’s really good stuff. 

Also, a lot of people are idiots. 

    For some reason -- and it’s either because they’re rightfully excited for the upcoming team or because they’re still shell-shocked by 18-1 -- the 2007 Patriots have been shown a remarkable lack of love when it’s come to the reader votes. It’s insane. 

    2007 PATRIOTS vs. 2017 PATRIOTS:

    And before you start with the “This is Boston and it only counts if you win” nonsense, remember that the 2017 team hasn’t done a thing yet, so by saying the 2017 Pats are better than the 2007 Pats, you’re saying the then-greatest offense of all time is worse than a current work in progress.

    As if anyone should need the reminder, the 2007 Patriots rank as the No. 2 scoring team ever, and at the time they were No. 1. Their 36.8 points a game was dwarfed only by the 2013 Broncos, who averaged 37.9. Then again, the Patriots have four of the top 12 scoring teams ever, so there’s no reason to rule out what should be a loaded 2017 group registering high on that list as well. 

    But back to the ’07 team for a second. At the time of this writing, a poll of over 3,300 readers had 67 percent finding the 2017 receivers and tight ends being better than the group from 2007. If ever there were a poll that should be split 50-50, it’s that. In fact, I would take the 2007 group over the 2017, but that’s only because I saw Randy Moss play in every game and am not sure I will see Rob Gronkowski do the same. 

    Think about the options after the top guys in both groups. Donte’ Stallworth was a get in free agency -- a 27-year-old first-round pick with all the talent in the world and a few damn good seasons in New Orleans under his belt -- and the guy didn’t even have 50 catches for that 2007 team. No, it wasn’t because he wasn’t any good; it was because Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker were so busy putting up a combined 31 touchdowns together that there was barely time for anyone else. 

    Laurence Maroney was the ’07 team’s lead back, but given how much the team threw and the fact that he missed three games, his 835-yard season with an average of 4.5 yards a pop was a lot better than has been remembered. 

    The only thing you can give the 2017 team over the 2007 one is that they figure to be well-rounded. The Patriots’ defense should be better than that ’07 group, even though the 2007 Pats gave up the fourth-fewest points in the league. Damn, the 2007 Patriots were so good.  

    Yes, that ’07 team lost, but it was still the best team in the league by a mile that season. Bad Super Bowl game plan, bad execution, obviously. But overall? There wasn’t a team close to as good as them that season. 

    The expectation is that something similar could play out this season. The Pats are so much better than everyone else that you’d be nuts to rule out 19-0 talk. Yet that hasn’t happened yet, and for now, the most explosive offense the Pats have ever seen — and very well may ever see — will be that 2007 one. They aren’t held in the same regard as the five championships, and for good reason, but to slight that offense — or really that team at all — is foolish. 

    Poll ranks Patriots as NFL's most 'badass' team

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    Poll ranks Patriots as NFL's most 'badass' team

    Five-time Super Bowl champions. Seven-time AFC champs. Fourteen-time AFC East champs. Now, Bill Belichick's Patriots have another title.

    NFL's most "badass" team.

    The Tampa Bay Times polled a panel of 43 NFL writers and asked them for the top three most "badass" teams and players in the NFL.

    MORE PATRIOTS

    The defending Super Bowl champion Patriots came out on top with 29 top-three votes. 

    Here's a sampling of the panelists' comments:

    "They keep winning in a league designed to discourage dynasties." -Terez A. Paylor, Kansas City Star

    "Hands down. They take a three-touchdown lead and keep throwing, and throwing, and don't give a damn what anybody thinks." -Tyler Dunne, Bleacher Report

    "For a decade they've been toying with and laughing at the rest of the league. The biggest bullies on the block." — Ralph Vacchiano, SNY

    "Behind the glitz and glamour of having the game's greatest quarterback, the Patriots ranked among the league's top 10 scoring defenses each of the past five seasons, including No. 1 in 2016." — Ryan Wood, Green Bay Press-Gazette

    The most badass player? Veteran Steelers linebacker James Harrison. The highest-ranked Patriot on the list? Tom Brady at No. 6. Rob Gronkowski was tied with Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack at No. 8. Julian Edelman was among the others receiving votes. 

    Here are the full rankings: 

    MOST BADASS TEAM 

    1. Patriots (29 votes)

    2. Seahawks (27)

    3. Steelers (18)

    4. Raiders (9)

    5. Ravens (8)

    6t. Broncos (6)

    6t. Cowboys (6)

    8. Bengals (4)

    9t. Cardinals (2)

    9t. Packers (2)

    9t. Panthers (2)

    9t. Texans (2)

    Also receiving votes: Chiefs, Falcons, Rams, Titans (1 each)

    MOST BADASS PLAYER

    1. James Harrison, Steelers LB (14 votes)

    2t. Marshawn Lynch, Raiders RB (10)

    2t. J.J. Watt, Texans DE (10)

    4t. Kam Chancellor, Seahawks S (8)

    4t. Ndamukong Suh, Dolphins DT (8)

    6. Tom Brady, Patriots QB (7)

    7. Von Miller, Broncos LB (6)

    8t. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots TE (5)

    8t. Khalil Mack, Raiders LB (5)

    10. Aaron Donald, Rams DT (4)