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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

Oakland Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

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

Mike+Pouncey+g0hwub0Gbh9m Getty Images

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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NFL morning after: Jerry Rice or Calvin Johnson?

Calvin Johnson AP

Ask me who the best receiver in NFL history is, and my answer is Jerry Rice, and no active receiver is close. So please understand that I’m not suggesting that Calvin Johnson has had a better career than Jerry Rice.

But I want to ask a different question: Has anyone — even the immortal Jerry Rice– ever played the wide receiver position better than Calvin Johnson is playing it right now?

With all due respect to Rice, I believe the answer to that question is no. The level of play Megatron has achieved over the last few years exceeds that of any wide receiver in the history of the game, even including Jerry Rice at his best.

From the start of the 2011 season through yesterday’s insane 14-catch, 329-yard game against the Cowboys, Johnson has 4,466 receiving yards. Over the best 2.5-season stretch of Rice’s career (the second half of 1993 and all of 1994 and 1995), he had 4,102 receiving yards. Johnson had 1,964 receiving yards last year, breaking Rice’s NFL single-season record. Johnson now has topped 200 yards six times in his last 27 games, counting the playoffs. Rice topped 200 yards five times in 332 career games, counting the playoffs.

But I don’t want to go too far down the statistical comparisons because there are a lot of respects in which the stats don’t tell the story. Johnson’s numbers are inflated by the fact that he’s playing in a better passing era than Rice was, and also by the fact that the Lions are a worse team than Rice’s 49ers were, which means they’re throwing late in games a lot more than Rice’s 49ers were. The flip side of that is, Rice was catching passes from Hall of Famers (Joe Montana early in his career, Steve Young starting in 1991) and had excellent teammates like John Taylor, Ricky Watters and Brent Jones preventing the defense from putting everything into stopping him. Johnson is catching passes from Matthew Stafford, who’s a promising young quarterback but nowhere near the type of passer that Montana and Young were, and this year’s arrival of Reggie Bush marks the first time Johnson has ever had a top-flight talent playing with him on the Lions’ offense.

So aside from stats, what makes me say Johnson is playing better football now than Rice ever did? It mostly comes down to their physical differences. The 6-foot-5, 236-pound Johnson makes plays that the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Rice did not. Rice was a genius for running perfect routes and getting open, but Johnson is so physically imposing that he makes plays even when he’s not open. The catches like Johnson’s 50-yard touchdown last week against the Bengals, when Stafford launched the ball deep into the end zone and Johnson went up and grabbed it despite being surrounded by three Bengals, are the plays that no one else at the wide receiver position has made.

And games like Johnson’s performance on Sunday are the games that no one else at the wide receiver position has had. How can Johnson, the guy every defensive coordinator in the NFL knows he has to stop, catch 87.5 percent of the passes thrown to him for 20.6 yards per attempt, as he did on Sunday? The answer is that he’s playing the wide receiver position right now better than anyone has ever played it.

Johnson was my favorite player in any of Sunday’s games. Here are some other thoughts:

Hard-luck player of the week: Reed Doughty. Doughty, a Washington safety, grew up in the Denver suburbs, and so he bought 40 tickets for friends and family to Sunday’s game against the Broncos. It should have been a great “local boy makes good” moment for him, except that he suffered a concussion last week and ended up not playing against the Broncos and not even making the trip to Denver. I hope his friends and family enjoyed the game anyway.

The Jaguars aren’t just bad, they’re historically bad. After Sunday’s 42-10 loss to the 49ers, the Jaguars are 0-8, and they’re getting blown out, week in and week out, like no team since the 1944 franchise that merged the Cardinals and Steelers because players were scarce during World War II. I thought before the season that the Jaguars were the worst team in the league, but they’re even worse than I thought they’d be. I figured they’d be your run-of-the-mill lousy 3-13 team. In reality, your run-of-the-mill lousy 3-13 team would be a double-digit favorite over these Jaguars.

Best block of the day belonged to Larry Warford. A rookie guard for the Lions, Warford got out in front of running back Joique Bell on a screen pass and planted Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee into the turf. It was a textbook example of the right way for an offensive lineman to play a screen pass.

It’s amazing that the Patriots keep winning. There comes a point when no team can withstand the loss of too many good players, and the Patriots seem like they should have reached that point. They lost Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Danny Woodhead and Aaron Hernandez before the season. They’ve lost Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork to season-ending injuries. Aqib Talib was out Sunday. Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola have missed most of the year. You just can’t lose that many good players. And yet New England is 6-2 after Sunday’s win over the Dolphins. Bill Belichick is a coaching genius.

What happened to Chip Kelly, offensive genius? I know the Eagles have had injuries to both first-string quarterback Michael Vick and second-string quarterback Nick Foles, but shouldn’t an offensive innovator like Kelly be able to manufacture some points anyway? Here’s how every single Eagles offensive drive has ended in the last two weeks: punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, missed field goal, punt, punt, field goal, interception, interception, interception, interception, interception, punt, punt, punt, fumble, downs, punt, punt, punt, downs, interception. Yes, in the last two weeks the Eagles have had 15 punts, five interceptions (on five consecutive drives), one lost fumble, one missed field goal and one made field goal. And the one made field goal came on a drive that started in field goal range. If you were flipping back and forth between the Lions and the Eagles on Sunday, you got to see Megatron playing the receiver position at its best, and the Eagles playing offense at its worst.

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Pouncey subpoena comes from state court, not federal court

Pouncey AP

On Sunday, authorities served Dolphins center Mike Pouncey with a subpoena to testify before a grand jury investigating potential weapons offenses involving former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.

Per a league source, the subpoena was issued by a state court, not a federal court.

The possibility that the subpoena came from federal court arose from the SI.com report that authorities are investigating Hernandez’s potential involvement in interstate gun trafficking.  The word “interstate” implies the application of federal laws.

The distinction is important, for Hernandez.  If the subpoena had come from a federal court, it would have meant that a federal grand jury had been convened.  Which would have meant that the federal grand jury could have been investigating an array of potential offenses, including the possible allegation that Hernandez murdered Odin Lloyd in June 2013 because he had knowledge regarding the possible allegation that Hernandez killed Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu in July 2012.

Which could have exposed Hernandez to a penalty not currently available under state law:  the death penalty.

It doesn’t mean that the feds aren’t investigating the case.  And it doesn’t mean that Hernandez won’t be prosecuted for federal offenses.  It only means that Pouncey has been ordered to appear, for now, before a Massachusetts grand jury exploring possible violations of Massachusetts law.

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Tom Brady is feeling the pressure

Tom Brady, Wallace Gilberry AP

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is struggling with the blitz this season.

Brady is usually among the best in football at getting the ball away quickly and accurately when opposing teams blitz him, but as former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski demonstrated this week on ESPN’s NFL Matchup, that hasn’t been the case this season. Jaworski showed game film of a badly underthrown pass by Brady against the Bengals and showed how Brady could have hit either Julian Edelman or Aaron Dobson but instead completely missed as he felt the Bengals’ pass rush.

“With time in the pocket, Brady would either lead Edelman across the field, or hit Dobson coming underneath in the middle. Neither happened, the result of pressure,” Jaworski said. “The pocket closed down on Brady, he lacked time to wait for the routes to develop and the functional space to deliver the football.”

As Jaworski noted, Brady has usually picked apart opposing defenses when they came after him. According to ESPN, when opposing defenses blitzed Brady in 2012, he completed 64.2 percent of his passes, had a passer rating of 117.6 and was sacked only seven times. But this year, Brady blitzed has completed just 53.8 percent of his passes when blitzed, his passer rating against the blitz has plummeted to 81.9, and he’s already been sacked nine times when blitzed.

Just about any way you slice it, Brady is having his worst season. In his previous 11 seasons as the Patriots’ starter, Brady never had a completion rate lower than 60 percent and never had a passer rating lower than 85. This year Brady’s completion rate is 55.4 percent and his passer rating is 75.3. He’s also on pace to be sacked 46 times this season, which would top his previous high of 41 in his first year as the Patriots’ starter.

It’s fair to wonder how much of Brady’s susceptibility to pressure is a sign of his own decline, how much is the result of the offensive line’s ineffectiveness and how much is the fact that in the past, Brady knew he could count on Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez to be open for a short pass on a blitz, while this year Weler is in Denver, Hernandez is in jail and Gronkowski has played only one game.

But whatever the reason, pressure on Brady is a real problem for the Patriots.

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