Regardless of who pulled the trigger and whether a cover up ensued, 27-year-old Odin Lloyd has died. That tragedy all too often gets lost in the fascination with the Aaron Hernandez situation.
This doesn’t means far less important issues relating to the case are irrelevant, such as the possibility that Hernandez will be suspended even if he isn’t arrested or the question of whether the Patriots can recover a large chunk of his signing bonus money. But they are far less important than the basic fact that someone murdered a 27-year-old man.
One less-important-but-relevant fact could actually help other players avoid mischief and mayhem in the six-week lull between the end of the offseason program and the opening of training camp. With the Hernandez incident occurring at the tail end of the first weekend of the post-OTA break (for all but a few teams), all other NFL players have received a vicarious reminder of how quickly it can all change.
A single bad decision made in an instant can wreck everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve. Career gone. Money gone. Freedom gone. Stigma permanently attached.
Regardless of what happens with Hernandez, the events of the last five days should give others players inclined to dance of the line of legal conduct the cold spray of water that could help them get through the next month or so without finding trouble.
Last year, 15 player arrests occurred in June and July. Even though an arrest can ultimately be meaningless if charges are dropped or reduced dramatically, it’s the arrest that creates bad P.R. for the player, the team, and the league — and it’s the arrest that players ultimately should strive to avoid.
This year, two arrests have happened in June. Hernandez could end up being No. 3. Given the coverage and the gravity of the case, if the Hernandez investigation doesn’t persuade the rest of the league’s players to stay out of trouble until it’s time to go back to work, nothing will.