Looking back, Hernandez's comments after contract extension chilling

Thursday May 15th, 2014

Aaron Hernandez signed a $40M extension just weeks after an alleged double murder in Massachusetts.
Josh Reynolds/AP

"I just hope I keep going, doing the right things, making the right decisions so I can have a good life, and be there to live a good life with my family."
-- Aaron Hernandez, Aug. 29, 2012

It seemed like such an innocent comment at the time. Aaron Hernandez had just signed a five-year deal with $16 million in guaranteed money and another $24 million in potential earnings, the kind of deal that sets an athlete up for life, assuming he doesn't spend it all on fancy cars, or ... well, in Hernandez's case, we know what the "or" is.

On Thursday Hernandez was indicted for murdering two men on July 16. If he is guilty, then he made those comments six weeks later.

MICHAEL McCann: New murder charges devastating for Aaron Hernandez

Now, read them again, starting with the first three words.

I just hope ...

Revealing, right? If you read that in a news story at the time, you would not notice: I just hope ... But now those words stand out. Would Tom Brady or Russell Wilson say that they hope they make the right decisions? It's as though Hernandez did not think his decisions were his own; like he was wrestling with a devil inside him, and sometimes the devil won, and there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it.

And the end of the comments, with Hernandez saying he wanted to "be there to live a good life with my family" ... well, many of us would wish for a good life. Not many would openly wish to be there for it.

These latest indictments change the Hernandez story, not just for himself but for the Patriots. They must now face the very real possibility that they played the entire 2012 season with a man who had killed two people, and that Hernandez caught 51 passes that year with the hands that had held the murder weapon.

Professional athletes often get into legal trouble, and occasionally the trouble is as serious as life and death. Panthers receiver Rae Carruth had only played three seasons when he was found guilty of conspiring to kill the woman who had carried his child

GALLERY: Sports figures in handcuffs

But this is different. Hernandez allegedly killed two people, then played an entire season. That would seem to put a damper on fond locker-room memories.

The indictments will inevitably bring up another round of What Did The Patriots Know And When Did They Know It? People will recall owner Bob Kraft accepting a $50,000 check from Hernandez for the Myra Kraft Giving Back Fund shortly after the contract was signed. They might even dig up a really embarrassing quote or two from Kraft at the time. Like this one:

"I just think he's a super player, and really a first-class guy," Kraft said. "Some people might see all the tattoos on him and think. Maybe 10 years ago, I was in that class. (Now) I think, 'Wow, this guy's a good guy.' "

Wow, that character assessment was a bit off. Hernandez now looks like a scumbag's scumbag, and an incredibly dumb one at that. We don't yet know if he is guilty; we don't, in fact, know many details of the allegations. But the outline of his case is well-known. Police believe he gunned down Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado from a nearby car after some kind of encounter at a night club. Then he killed Odin Lloyd because Lloyd may have known about the first two murders.

I hope, for Kraft's sake, nobody finds a quote from him praising Hernandez's problem-solving skills.

Still, it is a stretch to think the Patriots knew Hernandez might be tied to the double murder at the time. Kraft is a lot smarter than Hernandez. He would not give $40 million to his second-best tight end if he thought he had killed two people.

The Patriots surely did not know Hernandez might be a murderer. But they surely did know he had, in the vague parlance of pro sports, "character questions." They admitted as much. As Kraft told the Boston Herald in September, 2012:

"It's really rewarding to hear someone who came in that was very young, maybe not completely skilled in all the ways of the world. And now coming here, he's learned the Patriot Way. He's living the Patriot Way. He thinks it's changed him for the better."

Maybe Hernandez did "think" that. Maybe he convinced the Patriots. The human mind rationalizes. The Patriots wanted to believe in Hernandez, but a lot of sports teams want to believe in people who haven't earned that belief. Sadder, and more haunting, is that Hernandez wanted to believe in himself.

"I just hope I keep going, doing the right things, making the right decisions so I can have a good life, and be there to live a good life with my family."

Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado had been dead for six weeks. Imagine Hernandez with a pen in hand and a contract in front of him, ready to sign for all the money in the world, telling himself that pen was really an eraser.

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