Setting aside for now the idea that a guy who seemingly avoids interpersonal communication whenever and wherever possible somehow generated 33 pages of text messages with one person over a four-month period, the content of those exchanges between Patriots coach Bill Belichick and former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez from February through May of 2013 could be of interest to the league office for competitive reasons.
The labor deal signed in August 2011 placed new limits on the extent to which coaches can coach players in the offseason. Prior to the start of the offseason workout program in April of each year, meetings between coaches and player are prohibited, and “players’ activities may not be directed or supervised by any coaches.”
It’s unclear what that quote, taken from Article 21, Section 2(a)(iv) of the CBA, actually means. If interpreted as broadly as it seems to be written, any texts from Belichick that could be construed as any direction or supervision of Hernandez’s football-related activities could ultimately be a problem.
This assumes that the league or the NFLPA would even be inclined to do anything about it. The Peyton Manning/Adam Gase Tuscaloosan rendezvous was by all appearances swept under Nick Saban’s pile of Little Debbie wrappers. The folks in charge of enforcing the rules seem to realize that there’s some play in the joints, especially when contact during non-contact practices blows out a guy’s knee without consequence. (Other than the blown-out knee.)
Regardless of whether the texts show supervision and direction that violates the letter of the CBA, the 33 pages will shed plenty of light on the real Bill Belichick, a guy who has managed to keep most of himself tightly concealed from view — with the lone exception of the documentary he uncharacteristically allowed NFL Films to produce a few years back. It could be that Belichick was simply keeping closer tabs on Hernandez during the first offseason in which the player had an enormous amount of cash in his bank account, thanks to the long-term contract signed the prior August. Still, if/when the text messages ever come to light, the words thumb-typed by the cryptic coach will be scrutinized for any hint that Belichick knew or should have known that Hernandez was behaving irrationally or otherwise at risk of doing something incredibly stupid and/or criminal while left to his own devices.
And if there’s any plausible reason to think that Belichick feared Hernandez was heading down the wrong path only a few weeks before allegedly killing Odin Lloyd and failed to do anything about it, the questions will get a lot more serious and pointed than whether Belichick was coaching players at a time on the calendar when coaching wasn’t allowed.
For that reason, there’s a very good chance that the Patriots will do everything they can to ensure that the text messages never are disclosed. Hopefully by employing a better procedure than the one used to secure their Johnny Football scouting report.