New England Patriots Tight End Aaron Hernandez was arrested Tuesday morning, and subsequently released by the team later that morning. This surprising development was not expected, but in retrospect makes sense. Check out my Quick Analysis at MusketFire.com for additional details, as well as further updates from the rest of the staff at MusketFire. It is a great group of writers that I'm lucky to be a part of.
Personally, I was expecting a suspension after the arrest, not an outright release of Hernandez. However, the Patriots moved quickly and obviously had a plan in place to address the arrest when it finally took place. The move allows the team to re-affirm the values of the franchise by showing that the team will not tolerate any player, no matter their contract or playing ability, reflecting negatively or embarrassing the team. No production is worth the negative message that the off-field activity represents, regardless of the outcome of any off-field arrest and subsequent charges, etc.
This release of Aaron Hernandez lets the Patriots send a clear message to all other players on the team, future free agents or draft picks, and other teams that this organization will not tolerate anyone disrespecting the franchise and allowing their personal situation to paint the team in a negative light. The values put in place by owner Robert Kraft following his purchase of the team still hold true today. Just like the controversial release of former Nebraska defensive end Christian Peter who was let go just days after being taken in the 5th round of the 1996 draft during the Bill Parcells/Bobby Grier management, the release of Hernandez. As Kraft stated at the time (reported by Peter King of SI.com in 1996):
"it's the last time our organization will ever flirt with someone like [Peter]—if our people want to keep their jobs."
That seems to make it very clear that the organization is not going to tolerate any player who is negatively representing the organization . That is not to say that the team will bring in only players with sparkling reputations, but that the leash is short on players with a bad reputations or a background with issues. Aaron Hernandez had some issues--nothing like Peter's record--and the team gave him a chance to play and succeed as long as he kept himself out of trouble. The Patriots as an organization will give players with some baggage a second chance (Randy Moss, Corey Dillon, Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinqo/Johnson) but do not give the players any leeway to screw up and come back.
Although surprising, it appears the Patriots remained true to their core organizational values and cut the cord from tight end Aaron Hernandez before his situation carried over into training camp next month. The team can afford to go forward without a talented tight end and not skip a beat on offense, as they have done the past few years. The timing of this prior to training camp is optimal so that the team has the entire training camp to continue with their revamping of the offense. At this time, its time to think about the Patriots PLAYING football, rather than police/legal action regarding football players.