Tom E. Curran

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.

Curran: Butler signed; will he be sealed and delivered elsewhere?

Curran: Butler signed; will he be sealed and delivered elsewhere?

Malcolm Butler put pen to paper on Tuesday and committed to playing for the Patriots in 2017 for the rate of $3.91 million.

Honestly, what the hell else was he supposed to do? 

After more than a month as a restricted free agent, it was obvious no team was going to give Butler what he was reportedly looking for. Talented as Butler is, the freight of $10 million per year on a new deal AND shipping a first-round pick to the Patriots for the privilege of signing him was too much for a 27-year-old corner who’s a little on the small side.  

But now that he’s signed, more options actually open up. 

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The Saints -- who hosted Butler on a visit last month -- could now rejoin their effort to bring him aboard since they wouldn’t be on the hook to send New England their first-rounder (11th overall). Instead, they could send the Patriots the 32nd overall pick, a selection New Orleans got from the Patriots in exchange for Brandin Cooks last month.

That would ostensibly make the deal Cooks and a fourth-rounder to the Patriots in exchange for Butler and a third-rounder. That 32nd pick would have just served as a place-holder until Butler signed his tender. 

A Cooks-for-Butler trade was reported by ESPN on March 9 to be under consideration but it was quickly muffled. The reason? Butler was not under contract and couldn’t be shipped anywhere by the Patriots until after he signed his tender. It was made very clear by the Patriots that the acquisition of Cooks was all about picks, a stance that Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio says was evidence of how leery Bill Belichick is of violating the restricted free agent rules.

With Butler signed for 2017 (his $3.91 million salary would go with him if he were traded), the Saints -- or any team trading for him -- would have controlled cost for this year then could go forward with signing Butler to an extension before he becomes a restricted free agent next March. Or his new team could franchise him. 

Or Butler could just stay in New England and play out the season. The fact that the Patriots signed free agent Stephon Gilmore to a five-year, $65 million deal at the start of free agency pretty much guarantees Butler won’t be getting heavy long-term dough here. But it doesn’t preclude the Patriots from keeping him in 2017, either. 

Currently, the Patriots don’t have a pick in the first or second round of the draft. Trading Butler is an obvious way to get that pick back. Keeping him is an obvious way to having one of the NFL’s best secondaries.

Patriots open offseason training program without Brady, Butler

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Patriots open offseason training program without Brady, Butler

The Patriots are among several NFL teams beginning offseason training activities on Monday. Traditionally the team has outstanding attendance at these workouts. 

Tom Brady is expected to be at the facility on Tuesday. He's returning to town Monday after a family vacation.

Malcolm Butler, meanwhile, is heading back up to New England later this week after celebrating a family birthday.

Butler has not yet signed his first-round tender with the Patriots, which would pay him $3.91 million for 2017. The restricted free agent corner has the ability to discuss offer sheets with other clubs, but the final day for him to sign elsewhere is April 21.

Should Butler accept an offer sheet from another team, the Patriots would have the opportunity to match it. If they decline to match, they would receive a first-round pick from Butler's new club.