Pats, Fanene find middle ground on signing-bonus grievance

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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, 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.

Reporter stands by Matt Light-Aaron Hernandez quote


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.

Matt Light: I never said anything about Aaron Hernandez


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.

Will Pats use defensive backs on offense?


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.

Suh cleared in August pellet-gun incident


Sometimes, it’s a good thing for NFL players to have surveillance systems in their homes.

Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has been cleared after an incident in which he allegedly pointed a pellet gun at a repairman, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press and USA Today.

No charges will be filed against Suh, based in large part on the fact that video from his surveillance system supported his version of the events.  (In contrast, video from the home surveillance system of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is being used against him in connection with the murder of Odin Lloyd.)

A Comcast employee (Comcast owns NBC, by the way) named Spencer Ferrell called Birmingham, Michigan police on August 16.  Ferrell said that Suh threatened Ferrell with a gun while Ferrell was working on a utility pole in Suh’s backyard.

“At no time in the video did Mr. Suh point the pellet gun at Mr. Ferrell in a threatening manner,” the police report said, via Birkett. “The video shows the pellet gun in Suh’s right hand pointing at the ground. After several minutes, Mr. Suh has it over his right shoulder, pointing away from Mr. Ferrell.”

Suh, who declined to address the incident on Tuesday, told the authorities he was in fear for his safety and trying to protect his family.  “If you think I show aggression on the football field, I would show more to protect my family,” Suh said, per the police report.

So, basically, Ferrell is lucky he wasn’t stomped on the arm, kicked in the crotch, and/or taken out at the knees.

James Casey won’t “try to cause problems” after playing two snaps


When the Eagles signed tight end James Casey as a free agent this offseason, coach Chip Kelly praised Casey’s versatility and pointed to the way the Patriots used to use Aaron Hernandez as an example of how a team could make use of such a versatile player.

Fast forward to Monday night and Casey was not part of the team’s offense until the game was over. The only two snaps he played on offense came in the victory formation at the end of the game as the Eagles ran out the clock, which was hardly what anyone envisioned when Casey was signed to a three-year, $12 million contract.

Casey admits he’s not happy to be on the sideline, but said he understood that second-round pick Zach Ertz’s arrival changed things and that he wouldn’t make any waves while playing on special teams and biding his time until he gets a chance on offense.

“I don’t need them coming, babysitting me and telling me, ‘Hey, it’s OK, it’s fine.’ I’m a grown man,” Casey said, via Geoff Mosher of “I understand the situation. I’m not gonna get mad about it or try to cause problems. It’s just part of what’s going on right now. The main thing is we won the game.”

Coach Chip Kelly said that the team spent most of the night playing just one tight end, limiting Casey’s opportunity to get on the field, but said he thought different weeks would bring different looks on offense. Until those weeks roll around, it looks like Casey’s going to be a well paid third tight end.

Other Hernandez grand jury continues to investigate double murder


It’s never a good thing to be the subject of a grand jury investigation.  It’s much worse to be the subject of two of them.

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who already has been indicted by a Bristol County grand jury for the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, continues to be the focal point of a Suffolk County grand jury investigating the July 2012 murders of Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu.

Via the Associated Press, a pair of men connected to Hernandez have been ordered to testify before the grand jury.

Alexander Bradley, who has sued Hernandez in Florida for a February 2013 shooting, has failed to appear at a hearing regarding the question of whether he should testify, prompting a judge to issue an arrest warrant.  Bradley testified earlier this year before the grand jury that was investigating Lloyd’s death.

The judge also ordered John Alcorn to appear Thursday before the grand jury.  Per the AP, Alcorn is related to Thaddeus Singleton III, the late husband of Hernadez’s cousin, Tanya.  Thaddeus died in a car accident in June, and Tanya continues to be held without bail after refusing to testify in the grand jury that was investigating Lloyd’s death.

Published reports have indicated that the Suffolk County grand jury is exploring whether Hernandez killed Furtado and Abreu.  The judge’s orders regarding Bradley and Alcorn make the connection as clear as it could be.

Hernandez murder trial likely will happen next summer


Now that former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has officially pleaded not guilty to six counts related to the death of Odin Lloyd, the case can begin to move toward a trial date.

Per a source with direct knowledge of the situation, the trial most likely will happen during the summer of 2014.

That window can shift, based on a variety of factors.  Hernandez could, in theory, change lawyers.  Issues could arise regarding the availability of the lawyers who are handling the case for either side.  The judge presiding over the case may have a scheduling conflict.

Regardless, that’s the time frame in which the trial currently is expected to unfold.  A trial date could be set at the next hearing in the case, which has been set for October 9.  Or it could come later.

Before or after the trial date has been set, it won’t be too early for the two sides to posture for the potential jury pool.  Charles Rankin, one of the members of Hernandez’s legal team, told reporters after Friday’s hearing that Hernandez eventually will be freed.

“[N]ot one shred of evidence has been presented yet,” Rankin said.  “At the end of the day, we’re confident that Aaron is going to be exonerated and we look forward to that process.”

Prosecutor Sam Sutter disagrees.  “There’s a tremendous amount of evidence,” Sutter said.

In the end, no one knows what will happen.  A jury will have to decide whether the Commonwealth can satisfy the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  That very high standard protects innocent persons from being wrongfully imprisoned, even if it raises the chances that a guilty man will go free.

In this case, the circumstances point strongly to a conclusion that Hernandez killed Lloyd.  But the absence of the murder weapon and the presence of a star witness (Carlos Ortiz) who may have severe credibility issues could lay the foundation for reasonable doubt.

If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.  That mantra sums up in seven words the ease with which a skillful defense lawyer can persuade a jury to force the prosecution to present not just persuasive evidence but overwhelming proof of guilt.

Meanwhile, Hernandez continues to be investigated for a double murder occurring in July 2012.  While not connected on the surface, some reports have suggested that Hernandez may have killed Lloyd to keep him quiet about the other murders.

If that’s the case, the feds eventually could get involved — and they have the death penalty in their arsenal.

That creates a wide range of potential outcomes for Hernandez.  And no clear answers will be coming for a while.

Hernandez pleads not guilty to all charges


To no surprise, former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez pleaded not guilty to all charges related to the murder of Odin Lloyd.

Hernandez delivered the words personally, with far less conviction and panache than O.J. Simpson, who declared himself to be “absolutely, 100 percent not guilty” in the murders of his ex-wife and her friend, Ronald Goldman.  Hernandez spoke softly and at times shifted his eyes will repeatedly reciting the same two words in response to the six charges that formally were entered against him.

His lawyers will at a later date attempt to revisit the issue of bail.  Hernandez has been held without bail since his arrest in late June.

Hernandez is due in court again on October 9.  He could seek bail at that time.

Friday’s hearing also addressed requests by the defense to ensure that authorities in other jurisdictions (such as Connecticut) will preserve all evidence and to prevent the prosecution and others in law enforcement from disclosing information or evidence to the media.

Watch PFT’s live coverage of the Aaron Hernandez arraignment


Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is scheduled to be arraigned on a first-degree murder charge today.

PFT will carry live coverage from the courtroom, with legal analysis from Mike Florio.

The arraignment is scheduled to take place at 2 p.m. Eastern on Friday afternoon in Fall River, Massachusetts. Hernandez was indicted last month in the shooting death of Odin Lloyd.

To watch the proceedings, click here.

Report: Video shows Hernandez at same club as murder victims

The murder charges against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez could eventually be tripling.

Already indicted for killing Odin Lloyd in July 2013, Hernandez remains under investigation for the murder of Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu in July 2012.  According to Jenny Wilson of the Hartford Courant, police have obtained surveillance video of Hernandez in the same club with Furtado and Abreu “hours before” Furtado and Abreu were killed in a drive-by shooting.

A grand jury reportedly is investigating Hernandez’s role in the shooting of Furtado and Abreu.  Earlier this year, authorities found the gun they believe was used in the murders.  A car that had been connected to the shooting reportedly was found earlier this year at the home of Hernandez’s uncle.

These pieces of evidence may not be enough to meet the very high standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  In both the Lloyd case and the Furtado/Abreu situation, compelling evidence will be needed, or Hernandez will not be convicted.

Wednesday morning one-liners


Bills TE Scott Chandler and DE Alex Carrington may be next in line to get long-term contracts.

Dolphins G Richie Incognito offered some words of encouragement to his new teammate, Danny Watkins.

Lawyers for former Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez are seeking a delay in the lawsuit brought by the man who claims Hernandez shot him in the face in Florida, a story that came to light around the same time as Hernandez became a suspect in the murder of Odin Lloyd.

Said Tony Dungy of Jets coach Rex Ryan leaving town to see his son’s college football game, “I think it’s great. I think Coach Ryan is like any dad, excited to see his son. When you can work out the schedule to do it, I think you should. . . . I think it was great that he did that. It actually made me feel good. I was proud of him.”

Ravens RB Ray Rice wore Ray Lewis’s jersey to practice.

Bengals WR Dane Sanzenbacher is defying the odds by sticking in the NFL.

Browns RB Trent Richardson visited with a member of the military who is back on leave from overseas and timed his return to get to the team’s Week One game on Sunday.

Some Pittsburgh senior citizens worked up a sweat with the Steelers.

The Texans are 0-4 all-time against the Chargers, their Week One opponents.

A press release from the Colts praised OLB Caesar Rayford for making the most of his opportunities and making the 53-man roster, even though by the time the press release was posted to the Colts’ website, the Colts had traded Rayford to the Cowboys.

The Jaguars are emphasizing their strong commitment to Jacksonville.

Said Titans coach Mike Munchak, “Let the game week begin, and let’s find out what we’re all about, what we have.”

Broncos LT Ryan Clady on playing against his old teammate Elvis Dumervil on Thursday: “He’s a good player in this league and he’s definitely a challenge. I’m looking forward to the challenge and just playing my game, seeing if I can get the best of him.”

Some Chiefs fan got a really bad haircut.

The Raiders came in last in the Associated Press preseason power poll.

Said Chargers coach Mike McCoy of the moves the team has made in the last few days, “I think we got better. And that’s our number one thing we’re going to do. Anything we do to improve the football team, improve the organization, that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Can the Cowboys avoid another 8-8 season?

Giants tickets are almost twice as expensive as Jets tickets on the secondary market.

Eagles coach Chip Kelly has a history of starting slowly in new jobs.

Mike Shanahan has confidence in Washington’s offensive line depth.

Bears WR Brandon Marshall says his surgically repaired hip is structurally sound and “It’s go time.”

Lions S Louis Delmas is ready for a healthy season.

The Packers will have the better quarterback on the field when they meet the 49ers on Sunday, at least according to one Green Bay writer.

The Wilf family, owners of the Vikings, want to keep their finances private.

Said Falcons coach Mike Smith of signing OT Jeremy Trueblood, “Any time we make a roster move we are trying to better our roster. We feel like adding an experienced offensive lineman gives us an opportunity to better our roster.”

The Panthers have the NFL’s worst record in season openers.

After returning to the Saints, WR Robert Meachem said he feels like he’s back home.

There’s lots of optimism in Tampa about the Buccaneers.

Cardinals TE Jeff King likes to run a play he refers to as the “Oh [expletive] screen.”

Said Rams LB James Laurinaitis, “I believe we’re better. On paper we are, but we all know how that goes. Quite frankly, I’ll bet there are 32 teams out there that feel pretty good about their chances right now.”

The 49ers brought in QB John Skelton for a tryout.

Seahawks CB Walter Thurmond was a defensive standout this preseason.

Hernandez will be arraigned Friday


On Thursday, the NFL season officially kicks off.  On Friday, the murder case against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez does, too.

He’ll be arraigned in Fall River Superior Court at 2:00 p.m. ET, via FOX 29 in Boston.  As Fred Gwynne once showed Joe Pesci, it’s an easy process — guilty or not guilty.  Or, possibly “absolutely, 100 percent not guilty.”

Hey, it worked for the last NFL player who tried it.

Hernandez has been held without bail since late June.  Once he’s arraigned, a trial date likely will be set.

He also is being investigated in the July 2012 murder of two men who were shot in Boston.  A grand jury reportedly is exploring the case, and it could in theory indict him at any time.

Prosecutors deny misleading Hernandez witness


With former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez indicted for murder and prosecutors building their case, one of the witnesses claims that prosecutors crossed the line.

According to the Associated Press, prosecutors deny a contention from defense lawyers that investigators told Everett Garcia, a Connecticut inmate, that they were trying “to help Aaron out.”

In paperwork contained within the court file, prosecutors claim that police officers never said that they were trying to help Hernandez, and that they repeatedly told Garcia the discussion was voluntary.

Prosecutors claim that Garcia belongs to a gang in Bristol, Connecticut.  Garcia’s specific connection to any pending or potential allegations against Hernandez is unknown.

Hernandez appeared in court today for a motions hearing.  He is scheduled to be arraigned next Friday at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Belichick doesn’t have anything to add about Aaron Hernandez


I wonder if Patriots coach Bill Belichick has anything to add to the recent Rolling Stone story regarding his handling of Aaron Hernandez?

“I don’t have anything to add,” Belichick said three straight times last night when asked about the story during Thursday’s post-game press conference.

Eventually, Belichick went “next question” with reporters, prompting them to move on to Belichick’s second-least favorite topic:  Tim Tebow.

The Rolling Stone article reported, among other things, that former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez had flown to the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis to tell coach Belichick that Hernandez feared for his life — and that it was Belichick who told Hernandez to rent a “safe house” (which apparently became Hernandez’s well-publicized “flop house”).  Eventually, Belichick reportedly threatened to trade or cut Hernandez if there were any more offseason incidents.

Patriots president Jonathan Kraft disputed those contentions on Belichick’s behalf during a pregame radio interview, which in hindsight apparently represented the team’s effort to do what Belichick has no use for doing — publicizing the team’s version of the events.

The assembled reporters eventually swung back around for another crack at the Hernandez angle.

Asked if the Hernandez situation will linger over the course of the season, Belichick said, “I told you I don’t have any comment on that.  There’s nothing more I’m going to say about it.”

“I’m just saying as it relates to the football team,” the reporter said.

“Anything else?” Belichick responded.

It’s well known that Bill Belichick, when given the choice of saying something or saying nothing to the media, typically  chooses to say nothing.  But when a published report makes very specific allegations regarding his interactions with a former player who is now charged with murder, the failure to refute those allegations can become an implicit admission that the allegations are true.  Having someone else in the organization share his version on a second-hand basis doesn’t cut it, if Belichick truly believes that what was said about him in the article is false.

Regardless of whether Belichick understands that (and he surely does), the only thing we’ll likely ever know with certainty is that he doesn’t have anything to add.