Commentary | Patriots make bogus claim they were duped by Hernandez, and Meyer shares culpability

adell@bradenton.comJuly 14, 2013 

Meyer Hernandez

FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2010, file photo, then-Florida coach Urban Meyer glances at the scoreboard during his team's NCAA college football game against South Carolina in Gainesville, Fla. Meyer, now caoch at Ohio State, said it is "wrong and irresponsible" to connect him or his former Florida staff to the murder charge facing Aaron Hernandez. In texts to The Columbus Dispatch and The Gainesville Sun on Saturday, July 6, 2013, Meyer said there was no cover-up of drug tests during Hernandez's time at Florida. Meyer coached Florida from 2005 to 2010. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin, File)

PHIL SANDLIN — AP

Robert Kraft says he was duped by Aaron Hernandez, but it's more like the rest of us were hoodwinked by the New England Patriots owner.

We have to look no further than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Throw in the shenanigans that went on at the University of Florida under Urban Meyer, and New England cannot escape culpability.

The Patriots under Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick are familiar with the world of unsavory characters where they can get talented football players others don't want.

It's not a bad strategy because you get them cheap, but it does involve risk and potential embarrassment.

The Patriots cut Hernandez after he was recently charged with murder with Kraft saying the tight end had him fooled. He was a first-round talent selected in the fourth by the Patriots because he was draped in yellow caution flags.

Last year, New England traded for the Bucs' troubled defensive back Aqib Talib, who has a lengthy rap sheet, including an arrest for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon that was followed by his suspension last season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

This offseason, the Patriots acquired the Bucs' LeGarrette Blount, who was suspended 10 games his senior year at Oregon after punching a player on national television.

There were reports he had a work ethic so bad that the Bucs had to hire a car service to get him to practice, though he lived less than three miles away and was fined more than $15,000 for his tardiness.

In 1996, the Patriots drafted Christian Peter, the Nebraska defensive lineman with multiple arrests. He was accused of sexual assault several times and singled out by Kathy Redmond, the founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes.

A month before the 1996 draft, Peter was convicted for grabbing a woman's throat, and the Patriots still drafted him.

Five days later, they dumped him because Kraft said in a Sports Illustrated article that his team belatedly determined Peter's criminal behavior at Nebraska was more extensive than the Patriots had originally thought.

Peter called the Patriots a pack of liars and said he discussed every charge on his arrest sheet with five or six of the team's coaches and scouts.

"To say I wasn't investigated thoroughly by the Patriots is a total lie," Peter told SI. "It's obvious they're covering it up. I've been more scrutinized than the president of the United States. Whoever did this is a coward."

Before the draft, Peter was arrested eight times. He pleaded no contest to third-degree sexual assault and was arrested on an assault charge for allegedly grabbing another female by the throat in a bar when she accused him of being a rapist. Redmond claimed he raped her twice, but he said it was consensual, and Nebraska settled a lawsuit with Redmond, who never pressed charges.

Hernandez deserved special attention because he was part of the culture at Florida under Urban Meyer in which there were 31 arrests involving his players in five years. The number is now up to 41 if you count arrests after those players under Meyer left Florida, according to The New York Times.

The scary thing is that these weren't garden-variety arrests you see on college campuses with a lot of DUIs. Some were despicable even among hardened criminals.

No arrest under Meyer at Florida drew more scorn than when Jamar Hornsby was charged with using the credit card of a dead Florida coed who was killed in a tragic motorcycle accident with a teammate of Hornsby.

But if you are looking to exonerate Meyer, here is some cannon fodder.

After he tossed Hornsby out of his program, the troubled young man spent a year in junior college and then signed with the University of Mississippi under then head coach Houston Nutt.

At Ole Miss, Hornsby was arrested on an assault charge and never suited up for the Rebels.

Today, the Jacksonville native says he was young and dumb but disturbingly blames part of his problems at Florida on the culture, believing he was entitled.

It was similar to what Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison said last month when he was arrested for allegedly punching a Gainesville nightclub bouncer.

A psychological profile done by a scouting service said Hernandez got a 1 out of possible high of 10 on social maturity and that he enjoyed living on the edge of acceptable behavior, cautioning he could become a problem, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Meyer says it's irresponsible to judge him and his coaching staff for the transgressions of the players under his rein.

But it's irresponsible to ignore the arrests. Some are extremely disturbing and include another player who was arrested for firing an AK-47 outside a local nightclub.

Meyer, Kraft and Belichick are connected. At best they are enablers. At worse they are deceivers.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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