The more things change, the more they stay the same. After receiving a contract extension from New England, Aaron Hernandez has been arrested and charged with 1st degree murder, along with 5 other gun-related charges, as most have heard by now. This is not Hernandez's first dust-up, as he has a troubled past, and each day brings more of his 'indiscretions' to light.
Coming out of the University of Florida, Hernandez was a highly talented receiving tight end, but dropped to the 4th round in the draft due to his character concerns. The Patriots thought they would be getting a steal, and drafted him. Hernandez out-performed his contract, catching 124 balls for 1,473 yards and 13 touchdowns, all in 28 games. During those first two years, he was able to stay out of trouble and had no arrests or suspension. Last August, they signed him to a long-term deal of 5 years worth $37.5 million, with a signing bonus of $12.5m and $16m in guaranteed money.
Coaches and Owners are so enchanted with the thought of winning the Super Bowl, that they will take any means necessary to do so.... Even video-taping opponents' practices (had to throw that in). This results in more talented players, even those with troubled pasts, being drafted and signed- and given second, third, and fourth chances. Coaches, much like a clingy girlfriend, think they have the innate ability to change 'the man', and keep them on a straight path and mold them into model citizens and superior football players. Sometimes it works. Most times it doesn't. And in the cases where it does work, and the man/athlete does change- for how long?
We've seen many college players come into the league with character concerns- Dez Bryant is one trying to work past his issues and become more mature after being suspended at Oklahoma State, being sued for $800k in unpaid jewelry charges, and being arrested for allegedly striking his mother, although no charges were filed. He managed to keep quiet this past season, but for how long? Pacman Jones is another troubled NFL player given multiple chances. After "making it rain" at strip clubs, multiple arrests, and being suspended by the league, he is now a spokesman at the annual rookie symposium. And he once again finds himself in hot water after allegedly punching a woman in the face after she poured a beer on him.
Aaron Hernandez stayed out of trouble for 2 years. Now he finds himself in the grips of the Massachusetts judicial system.
After Hernandez was arrested Tuesday morning, it didn't take the Patriots more than a couple of hours to release him. Cutting him so quickly will cost them dearly in salary-cap implications, but apparently they are not concerned with money. Hernandez's deal has a potential cap hit of roughly $12.5 million for 2013/2014. No team in the league is immune to player arrests or character concerns. Even the Steelers have had issues with recent draft picks, trying to find that one spark plug or great athlete to help the team win games, even if it comes with a potential price.
The bottom-line question is: what is the breaking point for the risk-reward potential, and where do teams draw the line and look past the talent?