Just how bad is the Patriot’s off season?

Well, it’s pretty fucking bad. There are arrests, flesh eating viruses…..and Tebow.

The infinite surgeries of Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski when fit is arguably the best tight end in the league. To date, he has had 4 surgeries on his left forearm since fracturing it back in November of last year, then re-fracturing it in January in the playoff game against the Houston Texans. Two for stabilisation and reduction, one for infection and one for plate removal. Add in surgery to his spine in June and you can’t help but be concerned about the Gronk’s playing status in the 2013 NFL season. No doubt he will be back, but expect to see him at limited duty for a while, leaving the TE slot uncertain.

The loss of Wes Welker

For me, this was huge. Letting fan favourite Wes Welker walk was perhaps, until today the most significant ‘blip’ in the Patriot’s off season.

Despite being 32 this year, which is old for a wide receiver, there is no denying that Welker is a phenomenal player and doesn’t appear to have reached his use by date. At just 5’9″ Welker has taken his share of hits over the years, but has been consistent, only really missing time in 2010 when recovering from an ACL injury, and has been Tom Brady’s go-to guy since arriving in New England in 2007. It has been argued that whilst Welker’s numbers are phenomenal (averaging 100+ catches and 1000+ yards per season) he is not able to provide that additional factor which wins the Superbowl. He isn’t a leader, his game doesn’t improve or slump he is merely consistent. I like consistent. Apparently, so do the Denver Broncos.

To quote G.O.B Bluth, Patriots – you have made a huge mistake.

The signing of Tim Tebow

I actually wasn’t surprised that after being turned down by 31 other teams, the only team interested in keeping Tebow in the NFL was the New England Patriots given that no one in the league is a bigger famewhore than Bill Belichick and it can be promised that what Tebow lacks in QB talent, he makes up for with publicity since the media can’t leave him alone.

To me, this is a solely publicity stunt and the third string QB is unlikely to see much game time (Tom Brady people!). He is widely known for his work ethic and morale building, so that is not to say that he won’t be any good for the team at all – he’ll for sure make an excellent cheerleader.

The release of Aaron Hernandez

I had been keeping half an eye on this story all week because it seemed a bit suss and was both horrifying and compelling. I had a total OMG/WTF moment on Wednesday night (Aus time) when Massachusetts State Police via Twitter announced that Aaron Hernandez had been arrested at his home in North Attleboro, Massachusetts following investigation into the murder of Odin Lloyd. Hernandez and Lloyd were apparently friends, and their girlfriends are sisters.

Shortly after the arrest, Hernandez was released by the New England Patriots who issued the following statement:

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.

The NFL also released a statement:

The involvement of an NFL player in a case of this nature is deeply troubling. The Patriots have released Aaron Hernandez, who will have his day in Court. At the same time, we should not forget the young man who was the victim in this case and take this opportunity to extend out deepest sympathy to Odin Lloyd’s family and friends.

Time Line of Hernandez’s arrest according to various reports
  • June 17 Hernandez and 2 friends apparently picked up Lloyd at his home. Surveillance video from Hernandez’s home allegedly shows him leaving with a gun and telling someone in the house that he was upset and couldn’t trust anyone.
  • June 17 The body of 27 year-old semi pro footballer Odin Lloyd was found 1 mile from Hernandez’s home in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. He had been shot multiple times in the back and chest.
  • June 18 Police search Hernandez’s home for over 2 hours.
  • June 20 Hernandez’s home searched again it had been reported that prior to this a professional cleaning company had been hired to scrub Hernandez’s home. Reports said that he had destroyed his home security system and mobile phone, turning it over to Police in pieces. The video surveillance system was missing 6-8 hours of footage from when the murder occurred. Evidence places vehicle driven by Hernandez at one of the crime scenes.
  • June 24 Hernandez home and body of water near his home searched.
  • June 26 Hernandez arrested and charged with 1st degree murder and 5 gun charges including possession of a high capacity firearm. At the request of the District Attorney, Hernandez is held without bail. The DA sited the “nature of the crime and the strength of the case”. It was reported that a shell casing was found in the vehicle that Hernandez had rented which matched the casings at the scene. Prosecutors had labelled Lloyd’s murder an ‘execution’.
  • Hernandez’s lawyer says that the case against Hernandez is not strong and that evidence is circumstantial. He also said that Hernandez had never been accused of a violent crime. This goes against a Civil Suit which was filed against Hernandez by Alexander Bradley who alleges that after an altercation between the two at a strip club in Florida in February, a gun which was in Hernandez’s possession at the time fired, hitting him in the face and causing him to lose his right eye. The suit was filed on June 13, withdrawn, and then subsequently re-filed on the June 17.

You can’t make this shit up.

The more information that comes out, the more senseless and heartbreaking this is. A young man lost his life, my heart goes out to his family and friends.

So, how bad is it?

After the release of Hernandez, and assuming that the Gronk is unavailable or on light duties for the start of the season the Patriots will have a problem at tight end. This could leave the door wide open for rookie undrafted free-agent Zach Sudfield out of Nevada who received glowing reviews during the Patriot’s organised team activities, praised for his speed (which at 6’7″ and 115kg isn’t easy) and good hands. Zach Sudfield was not drafted due to injury concerns.

I had expected Julian Edelman to be Wes Welker’s replacement at wide receiver given his familiarity with QB Tom Brady. However, the Patriots signed Danny Amendola as a free-agent indicating he would be the favourite to fill Welker’s role. Given the uncertainty at tight end, I would imagine that it would be best to stay with what’s familiar and give Edelman leading role to help stabilise the team – but hey, I’m not Bill Belichick.

It would be really easy to write the Patriots off right now.

Don’t you find however, that these are the times that teams really do well? Rookies step up and prove themselves in vacant positions and veterans prove why they are still significant in the NFL. No doubt, the remainder of the off season will be difficult for the Patriots, it will be interesting to see if they can keep their focus and make it through to the playoff rounds.

I wonder how Tebow feels about stepping into the TE role…….?

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