Buckle up, Patriots Nation.
We all know the news by now - Aaron Hernandez has been taken into custody, and was subsequently released from the team. And while we don't know exactly how all of this is going to play out, to be honest it's no longer my business. I hope all of this works out for everyone involved and that justice is served one way or another, but Aaron Hernandez is no longer a New England Patriot and that's just the way it is.
There's one thing you can take to the bank, though, as more facts come to the surface: those people who love nothing more than to see bad things happen to the Patriots are going to have an absolute field day with this. Never mind that a man lost his life and that there are significantly more important aspects of what's going on here than a few football games. And never mind that there are a number of people - real, actual human beings - affected deeply by the goings on of the past week. Rather than touch all that, there are those who are going to see this as nothing more than anti-Patriots fodder, and they are just going to run with it. Some of them have already started, namely a few choice bumbling buffoons in the media who likely skipped the graduations of their children in order to get an article out there about how the Pats have lost their way or how the Hernandez situation is yet another chink in the armor of the crumbling ruins that was once the Patriots dynasty. We can all expect a lot more of that kind of talk over the coming weeks, and possibly over the coming months, depending on how the chips fall.
And while it can be borderline infuriating at times to deal with people who are so preoccupied with seeing the Patriots fail that they allow it to consume their every waking thought (thanks for Tweeting, Torrey Smith! Glad to see you fully enjoying your Super Bowl victory!), at the end of the day we can't let any of that get to us. As frustrating as it may be, there's something that we simply know for a fact, regardless of what anyone might think, do, or say.
The Patriots are going to be just fine.
They are. The team is going to move on from this, with or without #81, and they are going to win the AFC East in 2013. Now I'm not going to sit here and say that the team won't miss Hernandez, or that he wasn't slated to be a major part of the offense this year. I wouldn't go so far as to say that the team will simply roll along without him as if he was never there now that he has been released. The Patriots are a better team with Aaron Hernandez on the field and there's no disputing that. But anyone who can even begin to claim that losing Hernandez, in ANY capacity, somehow signals the end of New England's run as the most consistently dominant team in the National Football League simply doesn't pay attention to history and refuses to acknowledge that there have been numerous times in the past when you couldn't find a single media outlet that wasn't predicting the end of the team based on some controversial decision, event, or injury.
Everyone thought they were finished when they released Lawyer Milloy.
Everyone thought they were finished when they cut Ty Law.
Everyone thought they were finished when they sent Deion Branch to Seattle.
Everyone thought they were finished when Tommy B blew out his knee during the first game of the 2008 season.
Everyone thought they were finished when they traded Richard Seymour.
Everyone thought they were finished when they traded Randy Moss.
Everyone thought they were finished when they allowed Wes Welker to walk.
And everyone will think that they are finished now.
So while we're forced to endure the inevitable storm about how THIS time it's different, and how THIS time they really are finished, and how THIS time there's just no way that Bill Belichick will find a way to adjust, adapt, and continue to win football games, let's all put our faith in what has been a pretty damn good track record as we keep in mind that as long as everyone cares, the Patriots are still in their heads.
And plus, this is The Patriot Way. No man is bigger than the team. You either play by the rules or you get shown the door, whether you're a 7th round nobody or an All-Pro tight end. That's what people simply refuse to acknowledge; sometimes a guy works out, and sometimes he doesn't. Those that don't aren't a representative of the team losing it's way or being hypocritical; they were just misses, plain and simple. The team weighed the risks and rewards on Hernandez, he eventually let poor judgement get the best of him, and so it's time to move on. The bottom line is the Patriots got a lot of production out of Hernandez, but he isn't the kind of player they want associated with their brand, and so they showed him the door.
But will this be seen as a classy move? Will it be portrayed as the right way for a team to handle this? We'll have to wait and see, but I have a feeling that people will still find a way to view this in a negative light.
So good, I say. Let the talking continue. Because let's all remember that the absolute worst thing that we can hear as a Patriots fan from the media or the supporters of other teams is the absolute silence that comes with indifference. All I can really do at this point is wish Hernandez the best of luck and hope that his prison cell has basic cable so he can watch his former team host a few playoff games this January.
Or, should he not go to jail, the very best of luck to him over in Oakland.