ATTLEBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots did not wait until Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder to cut ties with the troubled tight end, releasing him from the roster on Wednesday morning soon after police led him from his house in handcuffs.
In a rare instance of public relations before football for one of the league's most successful teams, the Patriots released a statement saying, "At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do."
The swift dissociation came the same day the Cleveland Browns released rookie linebacker Ausar Walcott, who has been charged with attempted murder and accused of punching a man outside a New Jersey strip club. And it comes the same week NFL rookies are gathering at the Browns' facilities for lectures and workshops designed to help them avoid the pitfalls of professional sports.
From Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick's dogfighting ring to the murder-suicide involving Kansas City linebacker Jovan Belcher, the league has struggled to keep pace with its players' off-field problems, some of them violent. Hernandez was charged Wednesday with the slaying of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, whose bullet-riddled body was found in an industrial park about a mile away from Hernandez's North Attleborough, Mass., home.
Prosecutor Bill McCauley said at the arraignment that Hernandez "orchestrated the crime from the beginning." Hernandez, who was held without bail, did not enter a plea, but his lawyer said the case against the 23-year-old football player "is not a strong case."
If convicted, Hernandez faces life in prison without parole.
"The involvement of an NFL player in a case of this nature is deeply troubling," the NFL said in a statement. "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 our deepest sympathy to Odin Lloyd's family and friends."