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.

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

Rob Gronkowski's contract looked like one of the NFL's best bargains not too long ago. Now, after agreeing to a contract restructure, he could be paid as the top tight end in the league if he stays healthy.

Granted, it's a gargantuan "if."

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gronkowski's restructured deal will bump his salary for this upcoming season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million should he hit certain statistical thresholds or be named an All-Pro.

Per Schefter, Gronkowski earns $10.75 million if he plays 90 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done once before in his career), or makes 80 catches (which he's done twice), or gains 1,200 yards receiving (once), or is named an All-Pro (three times). 

Those seem like lofty goals for the 28-year-old who's entering his eighth year as a pro. But history shows that if he stays on the field for a full season or thereabouts -- 15 games to be specific -- he'll get to where he wants to be. 

If you take out his rookie year, before he had established himself as a go-to option in the Patriots offense, Gronkowski has played in three seasons during which he's reached at least 15 games. In each of those three seasons, he's been named an All-Pro. In 2011, he hit all three statistical markers. In 2014, he hit one. In 2015, he hit none. 

The lesson? When Gronkowski stays relatively healthy throughout a given season, even if he doesn't reach the astronomical statistical heights he reached in his second year, there's a very good chance he's considered the best tight end in the NFL. 

And if that's the case again in 2017, he'll be paid like the best tight end in the NFL.

To hit the second tier of his restructured deal -- which would pay him $8.75 million, per Schefter -- Gronkowski needs to play 80 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done twice), or make 70 catches (three times), or gain 1,000 receiving yards (three times), or catch 12 touchdowns (twice). 

To hit the third tier of his new deal and get $6.75 million, Gronkowski needs to play 70 percent of the snaps (which he's done four times), or make 60 catches (three times), or gain 800 receiving yards (three times), or score 10 touchdowns (five times). 

According to Spotrac, Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks is currently scheduled to be the tight end position's top earner next season at $10 million. Odds are that if Gronkowski avoids disaster and stays on the field, he'll eclipse that.

But the odds of him staying on the field are what they are: He's played in 15 games in four of seven pro seasons. 

The restructured deal seems to be the ultimate incentive for Gronkowski to get healthy and stay that way following last year's season-ending back surgery. If he can, the Patriots will reap the benefits of having the game's most dynamic offensive weapon on the field, and the player will be paid a far cry from what he was scheduled to make when the week began.

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

The Patriots and Rob Gronkowski have restructured the tight end’s contract for the coming season, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. 

The reworked deal can bump Gronkowski’s salary for the 2017 season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million, according to Schefter. 

Gronkowski was limited by injury to just eight games last season. He had 25 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns, all of which were career lows. 

The 28-year-old is entering his eighth NFL season since being selected by the Pats in the second round of the 2010 draft. He has played played in at least 15 regular-season games in four of his first seven season, though he’s twice played fewer than 10.