Curran: Hernandez's life and death was all about choices

Curran: Hernandez's life and death was all about choices

A headshake and a shrug.

That was my reaction upon hearing Aaron Hernandez hung himself with a bedsheet in his barricaded jail cell.

A man who could have done so much good with the blessings he was given -- athletic ability, intelligence, charm, a family that truly loved him -- instead actively chose a life that landed him in jail when he had every other option in the world available to him. And he killed a guy. And, despite last week's not-guilty verdict, was at the very least a party to the murder of two others.

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I don't know that I ever heard him breathe a word of condolence. I saw him defiantly spit in the shrubs of his North Attleboro home on June 27, 2013 when he was led in cuffs and into a life of permanent confinement. I saw him cry for himself in court.

But he cried and mourned the loss of his freedom, not the choices that led to that. Choices that dated back to his time at the University of Florida. He wasn't just a convict but a con man. Two months after the South End shooting deaths of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado -- an event at which Hernandez was at the very least present -- he signed a $40 million contract with the Patriots and kicked back $50,000 to Robert Kraft and the Kraft's charitable foundation.

"Now I'm able to basically have a good chance to be set for life, and have a good life," Hernandez said at the time. "I have a daughter on the way, I have a family that I love. It's just knowing that they're going to be okay. Because I was happy playing for my two hundred fifty, four hundred thousand [dollar salary]. 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 this opportunity. The $50,000 to help his foundation, obviously, is basically like saying 'thank you' and its means a lot to me.

"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. 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."

And within a year he took Odin Lloyd to an industrial park and killed him.

I feel sympathy for the mother, brother and daughter Hernandez leaves behind. I feel for his friends who had the character to love the sinner and hate the sins and not turn their backs on him. They will all live with the grief caused by the life and death of Aaron Hernandez.

Meanwhile, the true regret the friends and family of Lloyd, Furtado and de Abreu may feel today is that Aaron Hernandez ever lived.

Every day, people wracked by depression, illness, loss of family or purpose and inexorable sadness will consider an escape from the pain through suicide. Most will keep living anyway, hoping for a light they can't see. Living if not for themselves, then for the people around them. Others won't. A lot of them will feel as if they had no other choice. You mourn them and cry for the people who love them.

It's sad that Aaron Hernandez is dead. Even while serving life in prison, there was good he could have done for society if he chose to. He opted out. It's hard to feel specifically sad for him.

Brissett sees room for improvement but feels he's 'moving in the right direction'

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Brissett sees room for improvement but feels he's 'moving in the right direction'

HOUSTON -- It wasn't the mechanics of his throwing motion that he was concerned about. For Jacoby Brissett, it was the way in which he was seeing the Texans defense, the length of time it took to get a feel for the game, and how his night ended that bothered him. 

"I felt like I was getting my rhythm," Brissett said after the Patriots lost their exhibition with the Texans on Saturday, 23-20. "But you can't really remember all that stuff when the last play happens like that. It's the last one."

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Though the outcome of the game meant nothing, Brissett and his teammates were looking for a game-winning touchdown with less than a minute left when Brissett had the ball knocked from his hands and out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. 

Brissett's night finished up with him going 5-for-10 for 36 yards. He was sacked twice and pressured on seven of his 15 drop-backs. 

The reserves playing for the Texans in the fourth quarter made life difficult for Brissett and his teammates as their first two drives resulted in punts. Brissett was hit twice on those drives, and his first third-down attempt failed when Houston sniffed out a screen. The Patriots had what looked like a third-and-21 conversion on their next sequence, but Devin Lucien bobbled a catch deep over the middle of the field that fell incomplete. 

Brissett seemed to make a couple of relatively difficult throws during his time on the field -- he nearly had a game-winning touchdown pass completed to Cody Hollister on a fade to the back corner of Houston's end zone, but Hollister got just one foot in-bounds -- yet he wished he could have done more to spark the Patriots offense quickly.

"I think I'm throwing the ball good," he said. "I don't think that's the issue. I think it's more so just my eyes and the timing of everything. I don't think it's throwing -- actually throwing. I think it's the mechanics of playing the game."

There was some good to be taken from Brissett's brief outing. After taking over possession with less than two minutes left, he helped the Patriots get deep into Texans territory with completions to Lucien, Sam Cotton and a third-down strike to DJ Foster. He also avoided a near sack, getting out of bounds to stop the clock, and he wisely spiked the football into the turf when he realized Houston had figured out another screen was coming.

Brissett looked back on where the third-team offense was at the start of camp -- with players like receivers Tony Washington and KJ Maye having just been added to the roster -- and pointed out that he felt they were significantly ahead of where they were then.

"I think we've gotten a lot better," Brissett said. "Just this two-minute drive is a good example. Last week we didn't make it past, what, the 40-yard line [against Jacksonville]? This week we're in the red zone with a chance to win the game. I think a lot of our young guys are stepping up and making plays and we're getting a little continuity together."

As for Brissett himself? The 2016 third-round pick has been the subject of some media speculation as to whether or not his spot on the 53-man roster is safe. After seeing some inconsistency in his play during camp practices and last week's game against the Jaguars, there were those who wondered if he was progressing at a rate that would help him survive this year's cutdown date. 

Asked to give a self-evaluation after the Texans game, Brissett said, "I definitely want to do more and play better, but there are good things getting done, good learning experiences. Moving in the right direction . . . 

"I feel like I'm still getting better. I think I'm doing good things. I mean, this league is hard. You just continue to work on things and continue to get better. Yeah, [tonight] the end result is a loss, but there were some good things we did out there. Some things it's good to get on film and learn from. It's a learning experience. That's what this is right now."

Whether the coaching staff sees the improvement Brissett described is unclear. 

"We've all got a long way to go," Belichick said following Saturday's game when asked about Brissett's progress. "I don't think anybody's where we need to be. Any player. Any coach. Any anybody . . . Just grinding it out. It's going to take a while."

Brissett insisted that coaches have been just as tight-lipped behind the scenes when it comes to how they've seen him grow summer. 

"I don't know what they think," Brissett said with a smile. "They don't tell me . . . I'm putting my best foot forward. It's up to them if they think I've been getting better or not."