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Is Belichick to blame?
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - For most of the league, the NFL offseason will be coming to an end shortly.

For Aaron Hernandez, it might never end.

While most of his teammates are at Gillette Stadium practicing, the Patriots tight end has been cooped up in his house in Attleborough, Mass., waiting for police and investigators to determine his fate.

Hernandez appears to be a suspect in the murder of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old Dorchester man who Hernandez was seen with the night of the crime. Lloyd was dating the sister of Hernandez's girlfriend.

Meanwhile, a warrant is already out for Hernandez's arrest for obstruction of justice. That crime carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years.

Aside from the murder investigation, Hernandez is also being sued for allegedly shooting a man in the face outside a Miami strip club in February.

It's all bad news for the Patriots, who are now scrambling to find a starting tight end for their Sept. 8 season opener against Buffalo.

Hernandez has only himself to blame for the predicament he's gotten himself into.

Nobody would ever expect someone to commit an act like the one Hernandez is being accused of. But the warning signs were all there.

Repeatedly failing drug tests in college, a short temper, gang ties in his hometown of Bristol, Conn. ... Hernandez had trouble written all over him.

So why would Bill Belichick take a chance by drafting Hernandez in the fourth round in 2010?

The answer is simple, really. It's because Hernandez is a very, very good football player. When healthy, you could argue he's the second-best tight end in the NFL.

But when exactly does the risk outweigh the benefits? Hernandez's absence will severely limit what the Patriots are able to do on offense this season. His mere presence was one reason why New England decided not to pursue Wes Welker in free agency this past offseason.

With Rob Gronkowski (back surgery) and Hernandez both out, the Patriots will be lucky to make the playoffs. But again, it all comes back to Belichick.

Belichick knew Hernandez was bad news before the draft. And he picked him anyway.

It's not the first time the Patriots have sacrificed moral character for on- field success. The list of questionable characters that have rolled into Foxborough over the last five years has been almost endless.

First there was high maintenance receiver Randy Moss. Moss enjoyed a few successful seasons with the Pats before eventually wearing out his welcome with Tom Brady and many of the team's coaches. He was traded to the Vikings halfway through the 2010 campaign.

Albert Haynesworth (suspended for stomping on a player's head) and Chad Ochocinco (fined constantly for excessive touchdown celebrations) followed. Neither had a long stay in New England.

Two more men with questionable pasts, Donte' Stallworth (charged with manslaughter after running over a pedestrian while he was drunk) and Brandon Lloyd (famous for sparring with players and coaches), stumbled onto the team's roster in 2012.

And instead of showing troublemakers like Julian Edelman (arrested for assault and battery in 2011) and Aqib Talib (multiple arrests and a PED suspension) the door this past offseason, Belichick let both of them stay. Both players are still on the team's active roster.

Risky was about five exits ago. Now Belichick's on the highway to reckless.

For years, the Patriots were considered the NFL's model franchise. Off the field distractions were reserved for lesser organizations like the Cincinnati Bengals or the Detroit Lions.

When the Patriots were in the Super Bowl every year and led by veterans like Tedy Bruschi and Matt Light, we called that disciplined approach "the Patriots' Way."

It's hard to believe this is even the same franchise.

Why would Belichick choose to surround himself with these lowlifes?

Because he thinks he can change them. Belichick feels that no matter what kind of baggage a player brings into Foxborough, he can turn him around.

On the surface, mentoring these troubled souls seems like a pretty admirable pursuit. But at the same time, it takes an enormous ego to accept that challenge.

If the other 31 coaches in the league weren't able to handle these players, what makes Belichick think he'll be the one to turn things around?

For a man who shuns reporters every chance that he gets, it sure seems like Belichick wants attention. To me, that's the only possible explanation for why the Patriots would sign Tim Tebow.

Come on. CFL teams wouldn't even give him a contract. But Belichick believes he'll be the one to magically turn Tebow into a productive NFL quarterback. Good luck with that, Bill.

Belichick can't be blamed for Hernandez's actions. But he can be blamed for the culture he's created.

Something needs to change in New England and it starts with Belichick.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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