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Robert Kraft: This Patriots team already “super-special”

Robert Kraft, George H. W. Bush AP

Patriots owner Robert Kraft has more to choose from than others when it comes to favorite memories.

But even before this current season is over, Kraft said the current version of his team is among his favorites.

While the Patriots haven’t added to the three Super Bowl trophies, they’ve gotten to the AFC Championship game in a year which included the murder arrest of tight end Aaron Hernandez, and a seemingly endless parade of injuries to key players.

“We’ve had some wonderful experiences and some wonderful teams, but this team really is super-special,” Kraft said, via Christopher Gasper of the Boston Globe. “When you go through the locker room, you can get a feeling for the chemistry, how guys feel about one and another, the camaraderie.

“This team really reminds me of that 2001 team, a lot of players who weren’t household names, but they bonded together. They weren’t the best team on paper. But it’s not the team with the most talent, but rather the team that has the players who play the best together as a team and make the fewest mistakes.”

In addition to the Hernandez ugliness, the Patriots have lost six starters to injured reserves, including All-Pros Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, and Rob Gronkowski.

“There are so many things that happened in the offseason that were unfortunate and that we didn’t want or plan for,” Kraft said. “It’s another reason I love this team.”

Tomorrow night in Denver, we’ll find out of he has another reason.

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Hernandez can’t watch Pats in jail

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As the Patriots prepare to finish their first season since 2010 without tight end Aaron Hernandez by playing in the AFC title game, the accused murderer (and suspect in two other killings) won’t be permitted to spectate.

He’s not allowed to watch any TV,” Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said Friday, via the Associated Press.  “As far as finding it out, if they hear an officer talking about it, they might find out that way.  He could probably hear about it if some other inmate were to call home and he were to yell out.”

Hernandez remains in a “special management” classification, which keeps him in his cell 21 hours per day.  When he’s not in his cell, Hernandez can’t interact with other inmates.

The Patriots have adapted very well to the absence of Hernandez, who was with the team throughout offseason workouts.  His arrest came in the middle of June, after the voluntary program ended.

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Search warrant confirms Hernandez is a suspect in July 2012 murders

Hernandez AP

Not long after former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez found himself accused of killing Odin Lloyd in June 2013, Hernandez’s name surfaced in connection with an unsolved double murder from eleven months earlier.

If it wasn’t already clear that Hernandez is a suspect in the shooting deaths of Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu (and it should have been), it now is.  Via the Associated Press, a search warrant released Thursday confirms that Hernandez is the suspected shooter.

The warrant and accompanying affidavit initially were executed on June 28, less than two weeks after Lloyd was killed in an industrial park close to Hernandez’s home in Massachusetts.

Another recently-released warrant suggests that Hernandez may have killed Lloyd to prevent him from spilling the beans on Hernandez’s involvement in the July 2012 shootings.

Hernandez has been held without bail since June on charges of murdering Lloyd.  No trial date has been set.

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Warrant suggests Hernandez killed Lloyd to cover up double murder

Hernandez Reuters

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez continues to await trial on charges that he murdered Odin Lloyd in June 2013.  And he continues to be a suspect in a double murder that occurred 11 months earlier.

According to the Hartford Courant and other publications, a search warrant executed in connection with the July 2012 murders of Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado reconfirms that Hernandez is a suspect in the case.

The warrant explains that Sharif Hashem, a security supervisor at a Boston night club, advised police that the murders of Lloyd and Abreu/Furtado could be related, and that a patron of the club “accidentally spilled the beans in front of me.”

Lloyd and Hernandez attended the club in question two days before Lloyd was killed.

The information supplies a clear motive for Hernandez’s alleged killing of Lloyd.  If Hernandez feared Lloyd would “spill the beans” on Hernandez, Hernandez had a reason (warped and misguided as it may have been) to permanently silence Lloyd.

If it can be proven that Hernandez killed Lloyd to prevent Lloyd from giving evidence and testimony against Hernandez in the prior murders, the federal government could get involved — and the death penalty could be in play.

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New England Boat Show has an eyebrow-raising appearance scheduled

Former NFL player Hernandez, accused of killing Lloyd, appears in court for a motion hearing in Attleborough Reuters

Who says there’s nothing to do after football season ends?

Twenty days after Super Bowl XLVIII, the New England Boat Show opens.  Running from February 22 through March 2, the event features, well, boats.  And appearances by athletes.

As a loyal PFT reader has pointed out, the GMC booth promises to produce a quartet of Patriots.

Including former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.

The specific dates associated with Hernandez (Saturday, February 23) and the other three Patriots suggests that the link for the 2014 show still lists the 2013 appearances. Hernandez apparently canceled his appearance on February 21 “for personal reasons.”

His 2014 appearance will likely be canceled, too.

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Odin Lloyd’s family files wrongful death lawsuit against Hernandez

Hernandez AP

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has enough legal entanglements to keep a mid-size law firm fully employed.  He’s now got another one.

According to the Fall River (Mass.) Herald News, the family of Odin Lloyd has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Hernandez.  Lloyd allegedly was killed by Hernandez in June 2013.

While Hernandez enjoys constitutional protections like the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt when it comes to the question of whether he’ll be imprisoned for most if not all of the rest of his life for killing Lloyd, civil cases turn on the much lower legal standard known as “preponderance of the evidence.”

A generation ago, O.J. Simpson walked away from murder charges but found himself liable for a $33.5 million civil verdict.  Hernandez could see the same outcome, with an acquittal in criminal court and an eight-figure judgment in civil court.

The question now will be the timing of the civil litigation.  In most situations, the lawsuit will be put on hold until after the criminal case ends, since at that point the defendant wouldn’t be able to rely on the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.  In this case, there may be no money left by the time a jury decides Hernandez’s fate.

Hernandez surely still has ample assets, and he’s seeking $3.25 million in earned but unpaid signing bonus from the Patriots and another $2.96 million in guaranteed pay from the team.  Lloyd’s family — along with the families of Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado — should move aggressively on all of Hernandez’s available property before the money ends up being consumed by his legal bills.

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Report: Mike Pouncey was in Boston on Wednesday

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The Patriots are headed to Miami for a date with the Dolphins this weekend, but one member of the Dolphins reportedly spent Wednesday in Boston instead of preparing for the game.

Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald reports that center Mike Pouncey was in Boston yesterday, presumably for matters related to the subpoena he received to offer testimony to a grand jury investigating weapons charges against former Patriots tight end (and Pouncey’s University of Florida teammate) Aaron Hernandez.

The team would not offer any details about Pouncey’s whereabouts, listing him as a non-participant in Wednesday’s practice for non-football reasons. The Dolphins do not practice Thursday and Friday will be their final day of on-field preparation for the game against the Patriots.

Per Beasley, Pouncey is expected to play in that game despite the missed practice time on Wednesday.

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Prosecutors allege Hernandez’s fiancee lied 29 times to grand jury

Jenkins AP

Shayanna Jenkins, the girlfriend of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, faces charges of lying to a grand jury investigating the murder of Odin Lloyd.

According to prosecutors, Jenkins lied 29 times.

Via the Boston Globe, prosecutors outlined the various alleged falsehoods in court papers filed in connection with the case.  The alleged untruths include lies regarding conversations with Hernandez on June 18, when he allegedly called from his lawyer’s office and told her to remove items from the house.

She also allegedly lied about why she removed the things, about her lack of knowledge as to what the objects were, and about how she got rid of the objects.

With 29 different swings of the proverbial bat, the prosecution needs to connect only once to get a conviction.  The overriding goal could be to get Hernandez to strike a deal in order to protect the mother of his young child.

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Hernandez invokes Fifth Amendment in Florida shooting case

Hernandez AP

One of Aaron Hernandez’s various legal complications has become somewhat more complicated for the former Patriots tight end.

As explained earlier this week by Wesley Lowery of the Boston Globe, Hernandez has relied on his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination in the civil suit that claims he shot a friend in the face in February 2013.

The use of the Fifth Amendment comes in Hernandez’s formal written response to the civil complaint.  Per Lowery, Hernandez uses the following sentence 13 times:  “Defendant asserts his rights under the Fifth Amendment and, therefore, declines to respond to the allegations.”

Unlike a criminal case, where juries are told that silence cannot be used against a defendant, folks who refuse to testify in a civil case do so at their own financial peril.  If/when the case filed by Alexander Bradley goes to trial, the jury likely will be told that it can draw an adverse inference from Hernandez’s refusal to testify.

In other words, the jury will be entitled to conclude that, by declining to say anything about the situation, Hernandez must have done something.  Combined with the 51-49 “preponderance of the evidence” standard for civil cases, Bradley loses the case only if the jury finds his story to be so incredible that it overcomes Hernandez’s refusal to say, “I didn’t do it.”

The bigger challenge for Bradley will be getting compensated.  Hernandez’s money currently is being devoted to the defense against pending murder charges in Massachusetts, with another potential double-murder charge still lingering.

Bradley may end up having to rely on trying to get his hands on the earned but unpaid bonus money from the Patriots.  But Bradley may have to box out the families of up to three murder victims in order to receive compensation for being shot in the head by the man who currently refuses to say that he didn’t do it.

Hernandez’s willingness to throw in the towel on the civil suit suggests that he legitimately fears prosecution for the shooting in Florida.  As he should.  Especially if he isn’t able or willing to say, “I didn’t do it.”

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Philip Wheeler, Mike Pouncey fined for Week 10 infractions

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It’s been a busy day for posts about Dolphins center Mike Pouncey.

We’ve already covered the illness that left him out of practice on Friday and listed as questionable and the fact that he has yet to testify in front of a Massachusetts grand jury after receiving a subpoena related to the Aaron Hernandez case. Now we’ll move onto a fine that Pouncey received for actions in the Week 10 loss to the Buccaneers.

Pouncey has been fined $7,875 for punching Buccaneers defensive tackle Akeem Spence in the helmet during the game. Pouncey was flagged for unnecessary roughness, but avoided an ejection.

Dolphins linebacker Philip Wheeler also heard from the league office this week. Wheeler was fined $21,000 for hitting Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon in the head and neck in the fourth quarter. The penalty gave the Bucs a first down and allowed them to eat more clock before punting the ball to the Dolphins with three minutes left to play.

On the Buccaneers side, wide receiver Eric Page was fined $7,875 for an unnecessary hit on Dolphins cornerback R.J. Stanford as a punt rolled out of bounds. Safety Dashon Goldson escaped a suspension earlier this season and he escaped a fine for his unnecessary roughness penalty this week.

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Mike Pouncey hasn’t testified in Massachusetts, yet

Pouncey AP

Nearly three weeks ago, Dolphins center Mike Pouncey received a post-game subpoena following a loss to the Patriots.  It was a command to appear before a grand jury reportedly investigating the involvement of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez in the trafficking of illegal weapons.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Pouncey has not yet testified.

It’s unclear when he’ll appear before the grand jury for the purposes of answering questions under oath.  It’s also unknown whether he is viewed as a target of potential charges.

What is known is that, between the Hernandez situation and the ongoing Jonathan Martin controversy, Pouncey has plenty of things on his plate right now — none of which are all that appetizing.

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Alleged victim’s silence suggests Incognito reached settlement

Incognito Getty Images

Perhaps the most telling aspect of the report from Local10.com that Richie Incognito allegedly harassed a volunteer at the Dolphins’ annual golf tournament in 2012 comes from the alleged victim’s refusal to comment on the matter.

Per the report, she can’t comment because she signed a confidentiality agreement.

That’s code, intentional or not, for a financial settlement of any legal claims she made or could have made against Incognito, who allegedly “used his golf club to touch her by rubbing it up against her vagina, then up her stomach then to her chest,” and then “lean[ed] up against her buttocks with his private parts as if dancing.”

There’s no other reason for the woman allegedly victimized by Incognito to sign a settlement agreement, unless of course she was the one who paid money to Incognito to settle claims arising from the contention that the claims she was making against him were false.  (That’s highly unlikely, but still technically possible.)

And to those who wonder why this is only now being reported, it’s the Aaron Hernandez factor.  Once a guy hits the radar screen as a villain, the media starts looking for other incidents that perhaps had been overlooked.  In some cases, people who are aware of those incidents give the media a head’s up.

Regardless, there’s an effort to find Incognito’s skeletons because Incognito finds himself in the middle of what has become one of the biggest NFL scandals in recent years.

In light of the various NFL scandals that have occurred in recent years, that’s saying something.

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Rolando McClain: I felt like I wanted to kill somebody

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It’s been five months since linebacker Rolando McClain told Baltimore Ravens president Ozzie Newsome he was retiring from the NFL. McClain had been given a second opportunity by the Ravens just a month earlier when the team signed him to a contract following his release from the Oakland Raiders.

McClain was arrested just 10 days after signing with the Ravens for disorderly conduct and decided to walk away from the game soon after. According to Seth Wickersham of ESPN.com, McClain has returned to Tuscaloosa, Ala. and is working to get his life together off the field.

McClain is going to class at the University of Alabama as he is working towards a degree in family financial planning and is working to stay in shape. After being selected by the Raiders in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, McClain immediately had friends and family come to him asking for financial assistance. He had signed a five-year deal for $40 million with $23 million guaranteed and people began asking for a piece of the pie.

McClain said friends from his hometown of Decatur began asking for money telling him he wouldn’t be where he is now without them. That led McClain to spend nearly $600,000 over a six-month span in trying to take care of those close to him.

McClain began to lose interest and football and no longer enjoyed playing the game. He became more and more frustrated with the game and the constant requests for money from back home. It led McClain to believe he was on the verge of doing something horrible.

“I was feeling like Aaron Hernandez or something,” McClain said, “like I just wanted to kill somebody.”

He felt he could very likely be headed toward the same fate as Hernandez of being led away in handcuffs and placed behind bars for an act he was going to commit. It’s what led him to leave the Ravens and return to Alabama.

McClain said he will “probably’ try to return to the NFL next season. If he does, the Ravens still retain his rights. McClain appeared in 41 games over three seasons for the Raiders and recorded 246 tackles over that span.

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Giants had 20-man Gong Show on Tuesday

Gong

As the Giants embark on their bye week with two straight wins, they may not be standing pat with the players they have.

Per a league source, a whopping 20 players visited the Giants for tryouts on Tuesday.

They were:  defensive end Kendrick Adams, tight ends Colin Anderson and Bryce Davis, receivers Danny Coale, Reggie Dunn, and Preston Parker, running backs Kendall Gaskins, Miguel Maysonet, Cam White, and Keiland Williams, quarterbacks Jerrod Johnson and B.J. Coleman, center Kevin Kowalski, kickers Brandon McManus and Patrick Murray, guard Eric Olsen, tackle Willie Smith, defensive back Trevin Wade, linebacker Lawrence Wilson, and punter Brad Wing.

The Giants possibly were kicking tires in order to update their “ready list” at various positions, for future reference later in the year.  Or maybe they wanted to remind the current 53 players on a 2-6 team that plenty of other guys are out there who would kill for their jobs.

That saying feels a little weird after the whole Aaron Hernandez thing.

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Report: Authorities are looking at Mike Pouncey as more than a witness

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Dolphins center Mike Pouncey apparently is more than a mere witness in the ever-growing case(s) against Aaron Hernandez.

Greg Bedard of SI.com, who with Pete Thamel reported on Sunday that Pouncey has been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury investigating Hernandez, gave a more dire assessment to Pouncey’s potential predicament during a Monday morning appearance on WQAM’s The Joe Rose Show.

“Overall, I would say this is a serious situation for Mike Pouncey,” Bedard said.  “This is not a situation where they just think he might have evidence towards the charges against Aaron Hernandez.  If he goes in there [to testify before the grand jury] thinking that’s what it’s about, he will be underprepared.  He should be prepared that the authorities are looking at him in regards to some charges.”

It’s not clear what the charges would or could be, but Bedard at one point made reference to the issue of finances.  Bedard also said that Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (Mike’s twin) could be summoned to testify at some point, too.

With one murder case pending against Hernandez and a double-murder case possible, authorities reportedly are exploring whether Hernadnez was engaged in the illegal trafficking of weapons.  That detour from the murder charges has the feel of an effort to ensure that there will be a way to put an actual or perceived “bad guy” away, in the event the murder charge(s) don’t stick.

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