Bill Belichick is famous for stonewalling the press. That’s fine — though sometimes silly — for matters like updates on injured players. But a new Rolling Stone story strongly suggests that Belichick was quite aware of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez’s state of mind before Hernandez allegedly committed murder in June.
Wow. No dodges on this one, please.
The Hernandez profile describes a paranoid NFL player who was addicted to angel dust and kept bad company. Paul Solotaroff and Ron Borges write that “according to a source close to Hernandez, he flew to the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis this past February and confided to Belichick that his life was in danger.” Hernandez had become friends with gangsters, and he was worried that they were trying to kill him, the authors write. This spring, Hernandez also missed rehab assignments in California and blew off quarterback Tom Brady, who was running a camp for the team’s receivers.
Belichick, Rolling Stone reports, heard about an incident in which police were called to Hernandez’s rental home in California. In that episode, Hernandez allegedly put his fist through a window after an argument with his fiancée.
Belichick was furious, and “tendered notice: any more disruptions and [Hernandez would] be traded or cut at the end of the 2013 season.” When Hernandez returned to Boston, “Belichick, per a close Hernandez associate, had told him to lay low, rent a safe house for a while.” Police reportedly later found ammunition at a condo Hernandez leased, which one of his associates called the “flophouse.”
The details concerning the combine meeting, and the instructions to rent a safe house, did rely on anonymous sources “close to Hernandez.” But if they are true — and two other NFL reporters are saying Belichick and Hernandez indeed met at the combine — they’re remarkable.
Take, for example, the combine. For NFL executives, the February scouting combine is a crucial event. In the salary-cap era, good players go to a new team because their old team can no longer afford them; teams are always replenishing their parts through the draft. The draft is now one of the most popular events on the NFL calendar, as fans know a smart pick can instantly change the fortunes of their team. And thanks to smart drafting and talent evaluation, Belichick has built genius rep.
So the combine is critical. And now, Belichick’s supposedly meeting face to face with one of his key players, who is telling him that his life is in danger. That’s quite the distraction.
More important, Belichick had unique insight into Hernandez’s character. How paranoid was he? Where was his head? Did Hernandez’s demeanor appear different than what Belichick was used to?
Based on what we know, you can’t conclude that Belichick should have known Hernandez was going to commit an alleged murder. But it’s fair to ask: If Hernandez indeed told Belichick he feared for his life, to the point that Belichick recommended a safe house for Hernandez, why didn’t Belichick or the team involve law enforcement?
The safe bet is that Belichick won’t respond to the story. He can cite the ongoing legal case, or that he and the Patriots, who cut Hernandez loose after his arrest, are moving on.
I hope I’m wrong, and that he offers some honest insight. Instead of doing his usual dodge.