Feb 5, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (81) celebrates with teammates Rob Gronkowski (87) and Wes Welker (83) after scoring a touchdown during the second half of Super Bowl XLVI against the New York Giants at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots on Paper: Hernandez arrested, released from contract

Being arrested and charged with a felony has a tendency to change a persons life for the worse – and Aaron Hernandez is finding out all about that on Wednesday morning.

Hernandez was released from his $40 million contract with the New England Patriots, the team invoking standard language in his contract that voids the deal should a player violate terms of the NFL’s personal conduct policy – and being escorted by seven police officers out his posh digs in an exclusive neighborhood just south of Gillette stadium is a good indication that a violation has occurred.

Hernandez has been the focus of a murder investigation since the body of Odin Lloyd was found early last week and a vehicle attached to Hernandez by rental history was connected to the crime scene, and his behavior pattern since the start of the investigation has strongly suggested damage control and covering tracks, swaying public opinion and making the talented pass catcher the subject of ridicule.

So on Wednesday morning, the Patriots released the embattled tight end, also releasing a corresponding statement to the media – not an explanation, rather, a tome rife with righteous indignation:

“A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss. Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation. We realize that law enforcement investigations into this matter are ongoing. We support their efforts and respect the process.  At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do.”

Indeed, the right thing to do – and while many around the country are dancing on the metaphoric grave of the Patriot Way, it is important to remember that the actions the team has taken when faced with this grave situation is in line with the very definition of that creed.

They held off with any action against Hernandez out of respect for both the player that they had invested so much in, of law enforcement and the investigative process and of their own legal responsibilities, the language of which states that the team could have released Hernandez the moment that they had confirmation that he was being investigated by police in connection with the homicide:

“If at any time, in the sole judgment of Club, Player’s skill or performance has been unsatisfactory as compared with that of other players competing for positions on Club’s roster, or if Player has engaged in personal conduct reasonably judged by Club to adversely affect or reflect on Club, then Club may terminate this contract.”

But once it became clear on Wednesday morning that Hernandez was in police custody and about to face an arraignment on some sort of felony charge – be it Obstruction of Justice or even Murder – the team had no choice but to invoke this clause and part ways with the troubled tight end.

Now the team’s responsibility to the rest of the players on the roster and preparing for the upcoming season can move forward, a game plan in place without the services of Hernandez, which clears a muddled situation and frees up just over $4 million in cap money from his contract for the team to use as it wishes.

How much of the $16 million in actual guaranteed money the team will be able to either recoup or renege on is unclear at this point, given the legal wrangling that is sure to occur, but the cap hit numbers could ultimately prove to be a boon in the Patriots’ favor, since the language contained in the CBA affords cap relief should a team release a player under the auspices of the personal conduct clause.

The team will likely attempt to keep the $3.25 million bonus payment due to Hernandez in March of next year as well as his base salaries for both this season and next – all part of the money guaranteed on his contract extension.

But these things will be sorted out in time.  For the moment, the facts is that Aaron Hernandez is in some very hot water.  How deep it gets is the only intrigue left for a fan base that is resigned to the fact that an incredible athlete that was counted on to produce greatly on the field for the next six years will instead likely spend that time under the watchful eyes of prison guards.

Tags: Aaron Hernandez New England Patriots

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