Sad offseason headlines deliver hits that already have been outlawed while it’s all quiet in Green Bay
By CHRIS HAVEL
They buried Odin Lloyd on Saturday.
He was 27 – still a young man by anyone’s measure – and he was a man with aspirations of making it to the National Football League. Those dreams died with him when he was shot three times in the back, and twice more in the back of the head execution style, allegedly by New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.
Lloyd was laid to rest surrounded by friends and family, but this sad, sordid story is far from over. Lloyd’s funeral is the latest news in a daily string of disturbing revelations in a tale almost too bizarre to believe. It also is the latest hit in a series of hits to the NFL’s shield.
The 2013 season can’t come quick enough. Not in Green Bay where Packers fans are eager to see a reshuffled line, new legs in the backfield and the marvel that is Aaron Rodgers.
And not in New York City, where NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s calls for player safety are being trumped by concerns for public safety. This has been a difficult offseason to be sure.
Today’s headlines illustrate the point:
Ex-Patriot Deion Branch is “shocked” by Hernandez’ allegations.
“Aaron is a great guy and a great friend of mine and a great teammate,” Branch told The Albany (Ga.) Herald in a story published Saturday. “I love him to death, and it was shocking to hear his name involved in this situation. I truly hope and pray he doesn’t have any dealings with it.”
Branch also was quick to call for justice.
“Nobody deserves to walk, whoever the person is that did it,” he said. “Most of all what we as Americans need to understand is that is somebody’s child that was a victim. That’s somebody’s dad, and my prayers and thoughts go out to (Lloyd’s) family and hope that they bring whoever did this to their child to justice, regardless of who it is.”
The Patriots are offering a jersey exchange.
If a Patriots fan wants to exchange their No. 81 jersey for another in stock, the team’s ProShop will grant their wish. The team said in a statement: “We know that children love wearing their Patriots jerseys, but may not understand why parents don’t want them wearing their Hernandez jerseys anymore.”
The troubling headlines don’t end at Hernandez. In Washington, D.C., Indianapolis Colts safety Joe Lefeged was arrested Saturday – a few hours before Lloyd was buried in Boston – after police officers found a semi-automatic pistol in the car he was riding in.
Lefeged was a front-seat passenger in a Chevy Camara that fled a traffic stop for speeding in northeast Washington just after midnight. Officers smelled marijuana in the car, found a plastic bottle of vodka and orange juice in the center console and a semi-automatic pistol under the front passenger seat, according to reports. The gun belonged to Lefeged, who along with another passenger tried to outrun police at the scene.
Lefeged, 25, was being held without bond at D.C. jail on a weapon charge. He faces a preliminary court hearing Tuesday.
In Dallas, the Josh Brent saga continues down its sorry path. Brent, a defensive lineman, failed a second drug test and was sent to jail late last week. Brent was traveling at speeds up to 110 mph when he crashed his car and killed teammate and friend Jerry Brown.
Amazingly, sadly, Brent remains on the Cowboys’ 90-man roster, and Cowboys’ executive vice-president Stephen Jones said the team would have no comment. The Cowboys’ only comment should be: “We have released Josh Brent.”
The sadness doesn’t end there. In Patterson, N.J., Cleveland Browns former rookie linebacker Ausar Walcott, 23, was arraigned late last week for attempted murder. Walcott is accused of punching Derek Jones in the side of the head outside The Palace Gentlemen’s Club in Passaic. Jones is in a medically induced coma at a New York hospital where he’s listed in critical condition.
The Browns did the right thing and cut Walcott three days later.
Meantime, it’s been all quiet in Green Bay, where fans are focused on football rather than police blotters. That is just how GM Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy prefer it. The closest thing to controversy has been the Packers’ decision to give Johnny Jolly a second chance after serving jail time on a drug conviction. But even second chances are part of what makes this country great.
The same can’t be said for so much else that has been going on. The NFL isn’t immune to the violence in this country. It just seems to hurt a little more, and to chip away at the shield’s edges, when the league’s own players are alleged to have been the perpetrators.
The 2013 season can’t come quick enough.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’ MVP Parties the evening before home games.