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National Columnist

It's time to stop playing blame game for who failed with Aaron Hernandez

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Aaron Hernandez is not an indictment of Urban Meyer. He's not a stain on Bill Belichick. He's not a product of the SEC drug-testing policy.

What is Aaron Hernandez? A murderer, prosecutors in Massachusetts say. A fairly large idiot in the best of circumstances, possibly a killer who should never breathe free oxygen again. The legal system will decide which, but it won't be soon.

While the case grinds slowly toward trial, that gives us time -- too much time -- to decide what Aaron Hernandez is. But already in some corners he has moved on from Aaron Hernandez: tight end. He's not even Aaron Hernandez: accused murderer.

Now he's Aaron Hernandez: convenient example of (your agenda here). He's Aaron Hernandez: excuse to bash (your target here).

He's an excuse to bash Urban Meyer, whose tenure at Florida was full of players being arrested or failing drug tests or both. It happens at big-time football programs all over, but it seemed to happen more commonly at Meyer's Florida, which means it's open season for people who don't like Meyer -- and that's a lot of you, for whatever reason -- to link Hernandez's alleged crime to Meyer's alleged discipline.

Hernandez was an adult of 23 when prosecutors say he and two other men picked up Odin Lloyd on June 17, drove him to an industrial park and executed him. You can say Meyer should have done more to punish his misbehaving players when they were at Florida. I've said that myself. But what you cannot do -- not in anything resembling good conscience -- is suggest that Odin Lloyd would be alive today had Meyer been harder on Hernandez or Chris Rainey or any of the other jerks on those Florida teams. Odin Lloyd is dead because he ran into evil. Evil doesn't become evil because it wasn't suspended for the Georgia game.

For some reason Aaron Hernandez is an excuse to bash Bill Belichick, whose tenure at New England has included players who were signed because they were sterling at football, if not life. It happens at franchises all over the NFL, more at New England than some others, which means it's open season for people who don't like Belichick -- and that's a lot of you, for whatever reason -- to link Hernandez's alleged crime to Belichick's philosophy.

Belichick can be cold to the media and ruthless to opposing teams and accepting of players with pock marks in their past, and his Patriots did cheat by videotaping opposing coaches during their 16-0 season of 2007, all of which has nothing to do with allegations that Aaron Hernandez filled Odin Lloyd with .45 caliber bullets until Lloyd stopped breathing.

For some reason Aaron Hernandez is an excuse to bash the SEC drug-testing policy, or lack thereof, which has created a competitive disadvantage whereby some schools are more willing than others to suspend players. One-time Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu says he failed more than 10 drug tests at LSU. Hernandez reportedly failed multiple times at Florida.

SEC football has its issues, whether it's rogue coaches or stupid boosters or the general feeling that too many resources -- legal and otherwise -- are being devoted to winning. None of which has a thing to do with allegations that Aaron Hernandez thought the proper way to deal with Odin Lloyd was to exterminate him.

I understand the news cycle, the temptation for easy clicks, the need to advance the fascinating, awful story of Aaron Hernandez. And there's lots of time between now and trial to do that. Hell, there's almost a month between now and his next scheduled court date, July 24, for a probable cause hearing. Then comes the possibility of a grand jury, indictment, depositions. Trial could be a year away.

Meantime there are stories to write and things to say, but Aaron Hernandez is not a mallet to be used to whack the moles in football's yard. He is not a device to further your agenda. He is not an excuse to mock the coaches, teams or leagues for whom he has played.

He is a cautionary tale, I'll go along with that, but not for the discipline of Urban Meyer or the roster of Bill Belichick or the drug-testing of the SEC. Hernandez is a cautionary tale for young men everywhere, athletes and otherwise, who think it's OK to settle their differences with deadly violence.

That's what happened to Odin Lloyd sometime after 2:30 a.m. on June 17. He ran into someone who thought five squeezes of a .45 caliber semi-automatic's trigger was the solution to a problem.

A jury will tell us whether that someone was Aaron Hernandez, but I can tell you this: Whatever the jury decides, Odin Lloyd is dead because he got too close to evil -- not too close to the wrong locker room.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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