A new Boston Globe investigative series and podcast from the Spotlight team is taking a deep dive into the life and career of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was arrested for and convicted of murder and, in the latest installment released on Tuesday, it took a deep dive into his time with the Patriots.
Previous installments focused on his time growing up in Bristol and his time spent under Urban Meyer at the University of Florida. This portion of the long-form breakdown details a litany of concerning revelations about his professional career in New England, many of which show there may have been at least reason for the Patriots to be concerned about Hernandez's behavior off the field.
Specifically, the Globe broke down instances of whether teammates and coaches might have known about who Hernandez was interacting with off the field.
Let's break down some of these examples used, beginning with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady telling ex-Gators QB Tim Tebow, then with the Denver Broncos, that he was doing his best to "watch over" both Hernandez and former Gators player Brandon Spikes, who was also drafted by the Patriots.
Editor's note: Warning, there is strong language and adult subject matter below.
Looking out for Aaron
When Brady and Tebow met together at midfield following the Patriots destruction of the Broncos in the 2011 playoffs, microphones picked up an exchange between the two where Brady made it fairly clear that he was trying to help out Hernandez and that both Hernandez/Spikes were not easy to deal with.
From the Globe:
"I'm trying to watch over Aaron and Brandon,'' Brady told Tebow, referring to another former Florida player, Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes.
"I appreciate that, man. They're good guys,'' Tebow responded.
"Yeah,'' Brady said. But they're "a lot to handle.''
There are a number of different players from that Florida team who have had issues off the field, but none as bad as Hernandez, obviously.
Communication after investigation
The understanding based on what happened publicly was the Patriots cut off all communications with Hernandez once he went to jail. But according to the Globe, while Hernandez was under investigation, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels texted with the former tight end.
"You make sure you love that baby girl and your fiancée every day!'' McDaniels texted him in the spring of 2013. "There are only a few important things in life and they are one of them!! Keep treating them right…Love you!''
Hernandez. Additionally, Hernandez and Tom Brady's trainer Alex Guerrero communicated in the same time period.
"Thank u for today even tho at the end of the day it's all up to me to be a big enough man to make the changes!'' Hernandez wrote Guerrero in the spring of 2013. "Hopefully it woke me up enough to stay on a path that I want to be on and not hit a wrong turn over time like I always have in the past!"
These communications would not have happened after Hernandez was arrested based on the timeline involved, but they do appear to be while an investigation was building.
The general claim with the Patriots is no one saw the issues with Hernandez coming. The Globe talked to Dane Fletcher, a former Patriots player and one of Hernandez's rare friends on the team, who interacted with the people in Hernandez's circle. Fletcher had a much different viewpoint of the people the tight end ran with.
As their friendship grew, Fletcher said, he saw flashes of Hernandez's street life. He met some of Hernandez's thug friends, watched detectives question him outside a bar in Boston for unknown reasons, and dropped him off at his Franklin apartment where Hernandez stored drugs and ammunition. Hernandez called it his "side place.''
Fletcher said he was not alone among Patriots who saw Hernandez consorting with his ex-convict cronies from Bristol.
"I knew they were trouble,'' Fletcher said. "Everybody kind of did.''
There was also trouble noticed by various veterans, including former Patriots wide receivers Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd recalled how Welker told him about Hernandez and some of the bizarre things that might happen when anyone interacted with him.
But Hernandez's combustible temper became readily evident. In his first days in training camp, he threatened to "f— up'' six-year veteran Wes Welker, after Welker teased him about needing help in the film room, according to individuals familiar with the incident.
Receiver Brandon Lloyd, offering his most detailed account of Hernandez's troubling behavior, said Welker warned him.
"He is looking at me wide-eyed,'' Lloyd recalled. "And he says, 'I just want to warn you that [Hernandez] is going to talk about being bathed by his mother. He's going to have his genitalia out in front of you while you're sitting on your stool. He's going to talk about gay sex. Just do your best to ignore it. Even walk away.' ''
And Lloyd described Hernandez as acting in a rather unhinged manner, almost in a bi-polar fashion.
"There would be swings where he'd be the most hyper-masculine, aggressive individual in the room, where he'd be ready to fight somebody in fits of rage,'' Lloyd said. "Or he'd be the most sensitive person in the room, talking about cuddling with his mother. Or he'd ask me, 'Do you think I'm good enough to play?' ''
Lloyd also recalled how Tom Brady lashed out at Hernandez during a walkthrough when Hernandez, in flip flops, kept referring to Bill Belichick as "daddy."
"He was out at the walkthrough in flip-flops trying to run around,'' Lloyd said. "He was laughing. He was loud. And Tom keeps it serious in the walkthrough. And Tom says, 'Shut the f— up. Get the f— out of here.' ''
Lloyd recalled that Hernandez's mood transformed instantly: "It was like he went from this child-like, laughing, disruptive behavior … and he storms off in a fit of rage.''
Bizarre home life
According to the Globe, Hernandez's fiancee and mother of his child, Shayanna Jenkins and Hernandez had a very complicated relationship. They had known each other for years and had previously dated but Hernandez had not exactly been faithful per the report. That continued once they got back together in New England.
The baby's mother, Shayanna Jenkins, had known Hernandez since elementary school. They had dated in high school, a period in which Hernandez also had secret liaisons with teenage boys, too. And they had stayed in touch during Hernandez's years in Florida.
When he reached out to Jenkins after college, she reached back. She moved into his townhouse in Plainville during his second season with the Patriots in 2011 and commuted for several months to her job as a manager at a Big Lots in Bristol.
Then she discovered Hernandez had cheated on her and moved out. She started to grasp the burden of some NFL spouses — that NFL stars often get what they want.
The entire story is worth a read, with more parts coming soon. I've got the podcast queued up so I can listen to it as well. It's a startling deep dive into just how off the rails Hernandez's life was when he eventually had his final fall from grace.
Perhaps none of groundbreaking in terms of being new information about Hernandez's lifestyle -- so much of that came out during the trial -- but for anyone who has not taken a full deep dive into the Hernandez off the field, it's pretty shocking material. And even if you're fully aware of everything Hernandez did, there is more than enough new information to surprise you.