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Hernandez files grievance for his guaranteed pay, signing bonus

Hernandez AP

In the aftermath of Aaron Hernandez’s arrest for murder and release from the Patriots, the NFLPA believed that Hernandez would be unable to recover his otherwise guaranteed base salaries for 2013 and 2014.

The NFLPA now believes otherwise.

The NFLPA has filed on Hernandez’s behalf a grievance seeking payment of $1.323 million in guaranteed 2013 base salary, along with $1.137 million in guaranteed 2014 base salary.  The union also seeks payment of $500,000 for a guaranteed 2014 workout bonus.

The argument is simple; the amounts were fully guaranteed, Hernandez was cut, and Hernandez should still get the money.

The Patriots will argue, we believe, that the guarantees applied only to terminations made due to injury, skill (i.e., perceived lack of it), and the salary cap.  Because the Patriots cut Hernandez pursuant to paragraph 11 of the standard player contract, which permits termination of employment when the player “has engaged in personal conduct reasonably judged by Club to adversely affect or reflect on Club,” the guarantees evaporate.

Again, the NFLPA agreed with that interpretation in June.

The grievance was filed on the same day that Hernandez filed, also through the NFLPA, a grievance seeking recovery of the final installment of his $12.5 million signing bonus.  The $3.25 million isn’t due until March 14.  Citing the refusal to pay the guaranteed base salary for 2013, the NFLPA has opted to seek a ruling on the $3.25 million right now.

That’s an argument Hernandez is more likely to win.  The money was earned when he signed the contract in August 2012.  The only potential argument against paying him hinges on whether he is charged with — and convicted of — the July 2012 murders of Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu.  If he signed the contract knowing that he had murdered two people, there’s likely a potential legal argument that, if successful, would void the deal.

As to Furtado, Abreu, and Odin Lloyd, their families should promptly hire counsel and file suit demanding that any proceeds from these grievances (up to $6.21 million) be held in escrow pending the outcome of the wrongful death lawsuits against Hernandez.  If they don’t, any money recovered by Hernandez could be long gone by the time the civil litigation ends.

He has a good chance the get the $3.25 million.  The other $2.96 million arising from guaranteed salaries and workout bonuses will be much harder to recover.

Our guess is that the NFLPA opted to pursue both prongs in the hopes of making it more likely that Hernandez will at least get the $3.25 million.

Regardless, the families of the men he allegedly killed should be the ones who get that money.  If/when “allegedly” is replaced with “actually.”

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Aaron Hernandez’s fiancee pleads not guilty to perjury

131015-hernandez-jsw.380;380;7;70;0 AP

As expected, Shayanna Jenkins has pleaded not guilty to charges of perjury.

As also expected, she’s specifically accused of lying to a grand jury investigating the murder of Odin Lloyd.

Prosecutors contend, via NBCNews.com, that Jenkins lied to the grand jury about conversations with her fiancee, former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.  Prosecutors also believe she lied when she claimed she didn’t recall what she did with the gun safe or lock box that she removed from the home she shares with Hernandez, allegedly at his request, after Lloyd was killed.

She admitted, with a grant of immunity, putting the box in a dumpster.  But she said she doesn’t recall which one, which prosecutors contend is a lie.

Doing what defense lawyers do, Jenkins’ lawyer has defended her client.

“Their relationship in many ways had elements of what I would call ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’” lawyer Janice Bassil regarding the relationship between Jenkins and Hernandez.

Bassil also claimed that Jenkins was questioned in an “extremely aggressive” fashion before the grand jury.

Jenkins remains free without bail.  No trial date has been set.

It’s difficult to prove perjury beyond a reasonable doubt, because the jury has to essentially get inside the defendant’s mind.  It’s easy to charge someone with perjury and hope the extra pressure will make her tell the whole truth to authorities.

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Eyewitness emerges in Hernandez double murder investigation

Hernandez AP

The case against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez for the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd may be getting a little wobbly, but the potential case against him for the July 2012 murders of Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu may be getting stronger.

An alleged eyewitness to the double murder recently told FOX 25 in Boston that the witness, whose identity has not been disclosed, was in the car with Furtado and Abreu at the time of the shooting.

They just came up and started firing for no reason at all,” the witness, who was shot in the arm, told FOX 25.  “We never had any trouble.  We were not those kind of people.  We were just having fun.”

The witness said he recognized Hernandez after he was arrested for the murder of Lloyd.

“When I see his face, I just recognize his face,” the witness explained.  “Compare his face that night to his face now.  It’s that face that I remember. . . .  I just want to know, what’s the reason?  What’s the point?  Why us?”

A grand jury has been investigating the murders, with Hernandez reportedly the target of the probe.

“We’ve got the best homicide team in the city working on that,” Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis recently told FOX 25.  “They are putting pieces of information together and presenting it to the grand jury, working very closely with the District Attorney’s Office on that case.  I’m satisfied with the direction it’s going in, and I think that we’ll come to the right conclusions on that.”

The right conclusions for the authorities could be the wrong conclusions for Hernandez, ultimately requiring him to face a jury not once but twice with a life sentence hanging in the balance.

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Prosecutors in Hernandez case ask judge to step aside

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

On the surface, it appears that the prosecution has a strong case against Aaron Hernandez for the murder of Odin Lloyd.  If it were that strong, however, the prosecution perhaps wouldn’t be trying to get the judge assigned to the case to step aside.

At Wednesday’s pre-trial hearing, the prosecution acknowledged that a formal request will be made to Judge Susan Garsh that she recuse herself from the case.

The specific reasons for the request aren’t yet known, but this item from the Fall River (Mass.) Herald News points to a rocky history between Judge Garsh and the prosecutors handling the case.

In 2010, lead Hernandez prosecutor Bill McCauley “accused Garsh of being antagonistic toward prosecutors” during a different murder trial.

Per multiple Twitter reports, Judge Garsh didn’t seem to be thrilled by the prosecution’s intended course of action, which will be addressed at a future hearing.  And it likely won’t be easy to persuade her to step aside, or to force a higher court to force her out.

Even so, if the prosecutors have concerns about Judge Garsh, calling her out could force her to be careful not to do anything that could be viewed as showing antagonism to the prosecution’s case.

The fact that the prosecution even has to make the request shows that the case as currently postured is far from perfect.  With a very high standard of proof required for a conviction, it won’t take much to allow Hernandez’s lawyers to deliver an acquittal.

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Jets claim Zach Sudfeld off waivers from Patriots

Zach Sudfeld AP

From Curtis Martin and Ty Law to Danny Woodhead and Tim Tebow, there’s a long history of players making a move from one side of the Patriots-Jets rivalry to the other.

It got a little longer on Friday when the Jets claimed tight end Zach Sudfeld off of waivers from the Patriots. Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that Sudfeld, who was waived on Thursday when the Patriots signed wide receiver Austin Collie, is changing addresses in the AFC East.

Sudfeld made the Patriots as an undrafted free agent this summer and drew a lot of positive notices during training camp and the preseason as he got a lot of reps with an offense looking to fill the holes left by Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. He didn’t have a catch in three regular season games, though, and his playing time steadily diminished.

The Jets probably aren’t just trying to tweak the Patriots. There was enough promise in those early performances to merit a look and the Jets are definitely in need of guys with pass catching skills. Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow see the bulk of the time at the position, but Winslow’s injury history makes him a question mark in terms of making it through the entire season.

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Hernandez’s fiancee claims prosecutorial abuse

Jenkins Reuters

Last week, a grand jury investigating the murder of Odin Lloyd indicted Shayanna Jenkins, the fiancee of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, for perjury.

This week, her lawyer claimed that prosecutors are being unfairly abusive in their pursuit of Jenkins.

“The government actions in this case are abusive and overreaching,” attorney Janice Bassil said, via the Boston Globe.  “I don’t believe they have sufficient evidence.”
Bassil believes prosecutors are simply squeezing Jenkins in order to squeeze Hernandez.

“I believe they are just simply trying to add pressure,” Bassil said. “They are trying to pressure her, but perhaps they are also trying to pressure [Hernandez] through her.”

The perjury charge strongly suggested that Jenkins had testified before the grand jury, which typically operates in secrecy.  Bassil confirmed that Jenkins testified before the grand jury for two days.

“There is a famous saying, a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich,” Bassil said. “I look forward to challenging this in court. I really do.  If a grand jury is supposed to protect citizens from overreaching prosecutors, then there is a lot of work to be done here.”

Bassil may indeed be right.  With Carlos Ortiz changing his story about whether only Hernandez or both Hernandez and Ernest Wallace exited the car just before Lloyd was shot, the prosecution may fear a jury will conclude that reasonable doubt exists.  Putting pressure on Jenkins, and in turn on Hernandez, becomes an obvious strategy for shoring up a murder case that ultimately could be hard to prove, if Ortiz will be the star witness.

Besides, perjury cases are tough to prove.  At trial, the prosecution will have to show — beyond a reasonable doubt — that Jenkins knowingly made a false statement to the grand jury.

And so the question becomes whether Jenkins and Hernandez will be unmoved by these developments, or whether the pressure applied to Jenkins will prompt her, or Hernandez, to crack.

If Hernandez did indeed kill Lloyd, some would say he should admit it, if that will get the charges dropped against the mother of his young child.  Then again, folks who have killed people don’t necessarily approach such dilemmas with logic, reason, and/or a concern for anyone other than themselves.

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Sean Payton believes Dolphins had interest in drafting Jimmy Graham

Arizona Cardinals v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

Ninety-four picks were made in the 2010 NFL Draft before the Saints took tight end Jimmy Graham near the end of the third round. We know the rest of the story, and the opening chapters are flattering to team and player.

Graham has become one of the best receiving threats at this position. He has begun the 2013 season on a tear, catching 23 passes for 358 yards and four touchdowns. Only 26, Graham’s prime could last several more seasons. In short, a Saints offense with a franchise quarterback (Drew Brees) who’s two years younger than Tom Brady and three years younger than Peyton Manning looks well-positioned both now and in the near future.

It’s easy to say now that Graham should have never lasted that long, that his talent outweighed his lack of football experience. However, the Class of 2010 was loaded with tight end talent, and Graham had just one season of football to his credit. He wouldn’t have been the first potential-laden player not to pan out.

We’ll never know what might have happened if the Saints didn’t take Graham at No. 95. Actually, we can put some of the pieces together. Graham was the fourth-to-last pick of Round Three. The next three selections were non-tradeable compensatory picks that belonged to the Bengals, Titans and Falcons, and none of those three teams probably were inclined to take Graham. The Bengals had taken a tight end (Jermaine Gresham) in Round One of the 2010 draft. The Titans, had Bo Scaife, Jared Cook and Craig Stevens. The Falcons, who had the last pick in the round, might have been the best fit, given their need to eventually replace Tony Gonzalez, but they didn’t draft a tight end that spring, so Graham may not have been on their radar.

This set of circumstances may well have pushed Graham into Round Four. At that point, one team who might have taken a shot on Graham was Miami, as Saints head coach Sean Payton recalled Friday. Payton told reporters he received a call from then-Dolphins executive Bill Parcells about “30 seconds” after the Saints took Graham at No. 95.

“You could tell that that was someone who he had targeted, and that makes you feel good rather than him saying, ‘What did you take him for?’” Payton recalled Friday, according to a transcript of his press conference from the club.

Miami, after trading its pick to San Diego in a deal that landed the Chargers Ryan Mathews, had the No. 126 selection when Round Four began, according to this ESPN recap of draft trades. The Saints, who were defending Super Bowl champions, had pick No. 130 to kick off round four.

In the end, the Dolphins would trade up to No. 119, but not for a tight end. Instead, they took linebacker A.J. Edds.

Overall, four teams took tight ends in Round Four: Baltimore (Dennis Pitta), New England (Aaron Hernandez), Houston (Garrett Graham) and Philadelphia (Clay Harbor).

Again, we’ll never know what might have been if the Saints passed on Jimmy Graham. But their logic in taking him when they did was sound, to say nothing about how the pick turned out. Given Parcells’ interest and the other tight ends coming off the board in the fourth round, the Saints struck at the right time.

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Grand jury indicts Aaron Hernandez’s fiancee

Jenkins AP

Prosecutors have believed that Shayanna Jenkins, the fiancee of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, engaged in “overt attempts to hide evidence . . . and to hinder and mislead” their investigation into the murder of Odin Lloyd.

A grand jury now agrees.  Via the Boston Globe, Jenkins has been indicted for perjury.

The grand jury also indicted Hernandez’s cousin, Tanya Singleton, on charges of conspiracy to commit accessory after the fact.  She had been jailed on contempt of court charges after refusing to testify before the grand jury.

Carlos Ortiz, who previously faced weapons charges, has been indicted as an accessory after the fact.  The weapons charges have been dropped.

The charge against Jenkins means that she lied under oath.  Which likely means that prosecutors believe she lied when testifying before the grand jury.

The news charges will serve to put increased pressure on persons who have collateral roles in the case, with the hope that someone will provide clear and persuasive testimony or evidence that can be used to convict Hernandez for murder.

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Carlos Ortiz changes story regarding Odin Lloyd shooting

Ernest Wallace AP

If the prosecutors’ plan for convicting Aaron Hernandez of murder is to rely on Carlos Ortiz, they may need a better plan.

Via the Boston Herald, prosecutors disclosed during the bail hearing for Ernest Wallace (pictured) that Ortiz now claims that only Hernandez exited the car before Odin Lloyd was shot and killed in an industrial park near Hernandez’s Massachusetts home.

Previously, Ortiz supposedly said that both Hernandez and Wallace got out of the car, and that Wallace later told Ortiz that Hernandez had admitted to shooting Lloyd.  (That’s an odd admission for Hernandez to make to Wallace, since Wallace presumably was aware of the shooting.)

The summary of evidence presented without testimony from Ortiz successfully kept Wallace behind bars subject to $500,000 bail.  But the contradiction in Ortiz’s testimony could help give Hernandez’s lawyers enough ammunition to create reasonable doubt, via the Chewbacca defense or otherwise.

It’s a low bar, and it Ortiz can’t get his story straight as to the most critical moment for the case, why should a jury believe anything he says?

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More evidence could be coming today in Odin Lloyd murder case

Wallace AP

With no trial date in sight for Aaron Hernandez and the NFL season firmly up and running, it’s easy to forget about the Odin Lloyd murder investigation.

On Thursday, we’ll be reminded of it, because more evidence could be released regarding the prosecution’s theory of the events surrounding Lloyd’s death.

It’ll happen at a bail hearing for Ernest Wallace.  Charged with being an accessory after the fact, Wallace remains jailed on $500,000 bail.  Prosecutor Sam Sutter says, via the Associated Press, that more evidence aimed at justifying the high bail amount will be released when the hearing convenes.

“I think it is a very safe ­assumption that during the bail hearing you will learn about matters that you’re not aware of right now,” Sutter said. “This is a very serious ­offense. Accessory after the fact of murder [carries] a seven-year state prison sentence. We allege that he assisted, in a material way, Aaron Hernandez after the fact of the murder of Odin Lloyd.”

This strongly implies that the prosecutors believe Hernandez pulled the trigger. Proof and accusations stronger than implications apparently will be coming, as prosecutors have a legitimate vehicle for circumventing the gag order preventing the leakage of information about Hernandez’s role in the case.

On Thursday, it’s unavoidable that more proof linking Hernandez to the crime will emerge, since Hernandez’s commission of the crime is the thing to which Wallace allegedly was serving as an accessory.

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Saints, Graham talks going nowhere

Graham Getty Images

Through three games, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham has 358 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

But Graham still doesn’t have a new contract.  Per multiple league sources, the Saints have made an offer.  Graham’s camp has not yet responded.

Graham has entered the final season of his slotted rookie deal.  Drafted the same year as Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, both of whom received long-term extensions, Graham is still waiting.

He may have to wait a little longer.  Or a lot longer.  Last year, the Saints waited as long as possible to sign quarterback Drew Brees to a multi-year deal, after he took every snap of a six-year, $60 million contract.

Brees got his deal after the Saints applied the exclusive version of the quarterback franchise tag.  Graham undoubtedly will get the non-exclusive version of the tight end franchise tag, setting the stage for an inevitable fight regarding whether Graham is a tight end or a receiver.

Meanwhile, look for Graham to continue to take the high road.  Though he has earned the ability not to carry the risk of serious injury, the Saints have shown that they won’t pay close to market value until the player has maximum leverage.

If Graham stays healthy, he’ll have it — especially if he prevails on the question of whether he’s a receiver for franchise tag purposes.

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Pats, Fanene find middle ground on signing-bonus grievance

Jonathan+Fanene+Cincinnati+Bengals+v+Pittsburgh+QZZUaZsnzywl Getty Images

The best negotiated settlement to any financial dispute leaves both sides a little bit upset, and a little bit happy.

For the Patriots and former defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene, there’s reason for both.

According to Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com, the Pats and Fanene resolved a grievance over Fanene’s 2012 signing bonus by letting him keep the $2.5 million he already has been paid — and by cutting off the final installment of $1.85 million.

The Patriots claimed that Fanene concealed a knee injury when Fanene signed a contract last year that included a $3.85 million signing bonus.  The team wanted to keep the $1.85 million and recover the full $2.5 million.

The decision to work things out comes at a time when the hay was in the barn on the formal arbitration process, which included testimony from coach Bill Belichick and others.  Instead of waiting for the arbitrator to impose a ruling that one side would hate and the other would love, the two sides played it safe.

The move also gives the Patriots a $1.85 million cap credit.  More money to not spend on improving Tom Brady’s corps of pass-catchers.

Another fight for unpaid signing bonus money is looming, with respect to former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.  In March, the Pats inevitably will stiff Hernandez out of the final $3.25 million installment of his $12.5 million signing bonus.

Don’t be shocked if a similar outcome eventually occurs, with Hernandez keeping the money he has received and getting no more.  Authorities are still investigating Hernandez for a double murder that predated the inking of the $40 million extension, which means that the Pats could make a persuasive argument that all of the money should be forfeited.  Which will make it easier to settle the dispute with the Pats keeping the last chunk of it in their coffers.

More money to not spend on improving Tom Brady’s corps of pass-catchers.

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Reporter stands by Matt Light-Aaron Hernandez quote

Matt Light AP

The reporter who quoted former Patriot Matt Light as saying he “never believed in anything Aaron Hernandez stood for” is standing by his quote after Light said this week that he never said it.

Light said in a radio interview this week that he was out in the woods working with campers for his foundation at the time those quotes surfaced, and that he hadn’t talked to any reporters. But Tom Archdeacon, the Dayton Daily News reporter who initially published the Light-Hernandez quote, gave me a detailed account via email of the time he spent with Light.

“I spent some 4 1/2 hours with Matt Light that day,” Archdeacon wrote. “He brought the kids from his camp to the Cox Media headquarters for a tour of the Dayton Daily News and the WHIO-TV studios that I set up. He even did an interview live on WHIO that day with Mike Hartsock. I bought he, his counselors and all his kids lunch at our media restaurant. We then took his group to our printing press in Franklin. While he was there, he got word his son broke his arm and I drove him 75 minutes north to the hospital in Greenville where his boy was. That night he returned to Dayton to throw out the first pitch for the Dayton Dragons game in front of 8,000 people.”

There’s no middle ground here. Light is flatly stating that he never talked to any reporters, and Archdeacon has given a thorough description of their conversation. My guess is that Light said what Archdeacon quoted him as saying, never expected it to become a national story, and now wishes he had just kept his mouth shut.

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Matt Light: I never said anything about Aaron Hernandez

Matt Light AP

In June, the Dayton Daily News quoted former Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light making critical comments about former teammate Aaron Hernandez. Those comments were picked up here at PFT and picked up by many other news outlets as well.

Now Light is claiming he never said anything about Hernandez at all. In an interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub, Light said he has no idea where the Dayton Daily News got that quote.

“I was in the woods for two weeks at that time working with young people through the foundation,” Light said. “Two weeks in the woods, none of that time involved talking to a reporter about that situation that played out earlier this year.”

Light said he had nothing to say about Hernandez before and nothing to say about Hernandez now.

“I don’t comment about that stuff and I never will,” Light said. “It’s not my place. But, uh, things do happen out there in the world of reporting, right?”

Light’s denial is odd, because in the Dayton Daily News piece, writer Tom Archdeacon says that he has known Light for a long time and that the two of them spoke face to face. And Archdeacon quotes Light speaking directly about Hernandez, saying, “I never talk about other guys, but I will say I have never embraced – never believed in – anything Aaron Hernandez stood for.”

Light isn’t claiming his words were misconstrued or twisted or taken out of context. He’s flatly saying he never said what Archdeacon quoted him as saying, and never said anything like it. I sent Archdeacon an email and left him a voicemail seeking his comment. So far I haven’t heard back. Maybe he’s in the woods for two weeks.

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Will Pats use defensive backs on offense?

Talib AP

In past years, when the Patriots were low on defensive backs, they shifted guys like Troy Brown and Julian Edelman over from offense.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes (like when Edelman tried to cover Anquan Boldin) it didn’t.

Now, the Pats are hurting on offense, with multiple pass catchers injured.  Tonight against the Jets, receiver Danny Amendola, tight end Rob Gronkowski, tight end Zach Sudfeld, and running back Shane Vereen are each out.

Meanwhile, Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead, and Brandon Lloyd are long gone.  And Aaron Hernandez is wearing a different uniform.

So why not flip a defensive back over to offense?  While defensive backs usually play defense because they can’t catch too well, Aqib Talib played some offense at Kansas, once catching a 42-yard touchdown pass.  Besides, who knows which of his defenders can run routes and catch passes better then Bill Belichick?

At a time when the Hoodie is looking like he got hoodwinked by signing Amendola (who already is injured) and letting Welker walk, Belichick needs to re-establish his genius.  There’s no better way to do it than to once again show that he has a team of football players, and that he know what each of them can and can’t do.

Unless the Pats are planning a jailbreak screen to Hernandez, using guys from defense may be the only way to move the chains consistently.

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