Regardless of whether Aaron Hernandez failed one drug test or six drug tests or something in between during his time at Florida, Hernandez reportedly failed no drug tests during his NFL career.
According to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, zero is the magic number as it relates to the number of times Hernandez tested positive for recreational drugs.
It’s important to understand what that does, and doesn’t, mean. For players not in the substance-abuse program, testing happens once per year — between April 20 and August 9. After that test, the player isn’t tested again until the next stretch from April 20 through August 9.
Which means that, once a player has submitted to his annual test for recreational drugs, he can use them with impunity, as long as he engages in no behavior that would place him in the program, such as being arrested for marijuana possession or having a joint fall out of his backpack during a visit to the league office. (In contrast, testing for PEDs happens on a random basis throughout the year, with one confirmed positive resulting in a four-game suspension.)
There’s no evidence that Hernandez was smoking marijuana or taking any other drugs while playing for the Patriots. Still, that’s currently the least of his and their problems.
Volin also reports the team had no concerns with Hernandez as a player. “He showed up to meetings and practices on time, practiced hard, stayed in shape, was very coachable, and starred on the field, scoring 18 touchdowns in three seasons,” Volin writes, citing an unnamed team source.
The only issue, and ultimately it may have been a big one, came from Hernandez’s reluctance to sever ties with his friends in Connecticut. Per Volin, Hernandez would “tune out and occasionally become angry” when a coach or other team employee tried to raise the issue with him.
That makes the decision to sign Hernandez to a $40 million deal in 2012 with a $12.5 million signing bonus even more surprising. It’s one thing to take a fourth-round flier on a first-round talent. But the Pats decided after only two seasons to tie the knot with Hernandez, despite his reluctance to break from folks whom the Patriots apparently believed could get Hernandez in to trouble.
The contact negotiations provided a perfect opportunity to draw bright lines regarding the things Hernandez can and can’t do going forward. The Patriots routinely dictate terms to players and agents; when it comes to free agency, for example, agents and players know that they can pretty much do nothing without angering (and possibly alienating) Bill Belichick and company.
At a minimum, Hernandez’s contract could have been constructed to provide better (any) protections for the team, with roster bonuses replacing an eight-figure lump sum that Hernandez earned once he signed the deal. While there remains no plausible or logical way to project murder from Hernandez’s history, the Patriots’ failure to properly guard against a worst-case scenario is stunning, given that they at least had reason to be concerned that something could happen with Hernandez.
Otherwise, they wouldn’t have periodically asked him to quit hanging around with his friends in Connecticut.