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When did tight ends turn evil?

July 16, 2013
By Brad Johnson , The Inter-Mountain

One of the many shocking aspects of the Aaron Hernandez murder arrest is that the former New England Patriots star is a tight end.

Tight ends are traditionally big and strong, but they also usually seem to be good-natured guys. Hard-working, they have to be able to block as well as catch the ball.

Fans respect them because they're willing to put their bodies on the line and hit defenders hard. They're usually considered "blue-collar" players, not "glamour" athletes.

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Brad Johnson

Tight ends often are thought of as "the quarterback's best friend."

Think of Ben Roethlisberger and Heath Miller. Troy Aikman and Jay Novacek. Kenny Stabler and Dave Casper.

If Hernandez was Tom Brady's best friend, however, Brady may consider himself lucky to still be walking around.

Hernandez remains in jail charged with murder in the death of Odin Lloyd, on June 17, and is reportedly a potential suspect in an unsolved double murder from 2012.

He has also been accused, in a civil lawsuit, of shooting a friend in the face after a night of partying at strip clubs in February. The man allegedly lost his right eye and has undergone multiple surgeries to reconstruct his face.

A tight end is accused of all this?

Hernandez just doesn't seem to fit the traditional tight end's personality mold. I've always thought tight ends in football have the same psychological makeup as catchers in baseball: they're great, loyal teammates, stand-up guys.

A tight end's relationship with a quarterback is similar to a catcher's relationship with a starting pitcher. Think of Johnny Bench, Thurman Munson. "Pudge" Fisk, "Pudge" Rodriguez.

Can you imagine any of those guys shooting a friend in the face?

If Hernandez was a defensive player, these allegations might have been less of a shock. After all, the recently retired Ray Lewis, one of the all-time greatest - and most ferocious - linebackers, was arrested for murder in 2000. His attorneys negotiated a plea agreement, with the murder charge dismissed in exchange for his testimony.

Ray Lewis was not a tight end.

Even if Hernandez had been a flashy, speedy wide receiver, there would have been a precedent for the murder charge. Rae Carruth, a receiver for the Carolina Panthers, was convicted in 2001 of conspiring to murder the woman who was carrying his child. He is not expected to be released from prison until 2018.

Rae Carruth was definitely not a tight end. And let's not even talk about O.J. Simpson.

Maybe the disconnect between that classic image of a tight end and the reality of the murder charge is part of why his former team - and former fans - have been so quick to put Hernandez behind them.

The Patriots released Hernandez soon after he was arrested on June 26. Two weeks ago, the Patriots welcomed fans to the team's official pro shop in Foxborough, Mass. to exchange Hernandez jerseys for shirts associating them with players not facing criminal charges. About 2,500 fans took them up on it.

Who can blame them? Aaron Hernandez played the tight end position, but if the allegations are true, then - in his heart -Aaron Hernandez was not a true tight end.



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