By now, we're all familiar with the circumstances surrounding the arrest of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. Hernandez—a Connecticut native—faces first-degree murder charges and the possibility of life in prison without parole for allegedly shooting and killing semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd back in June.
Rolling Stone's Paul Solotaroff—with Ron Borges—poured into Hernandez's backstory, drumming up reports of heavy PCP use and paranoia leading up to the tight end's revelation and subsequent confession to head coach Bill Belichick that he feared for his life.
Solotaroff does not do Belichick any favors with his feature, painting the coach as the head of an Evil Empire who knowingly accepted risks with a number of players in exchange for tallies in the win column.
Time was, the Pats were the Tiffany franchise, a team of such sterling moral repute that they cut a player right after they drafted him, having learned he had a history of assaulting women. But Beli-chick, the winner of three Super Bowl titles and grand wizard of the greatest show on turf, had decided long before he got to New England that such niceties were beneath him. Over a decade, he'd been aggregating power unto himself, becoming the Chief Decider on personnel matters. He signed so many players bearing red flags they could have marched in Moscow's May Day parade (Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, et al.), and began drafting kids with hectic pasts, assuming the team's vets would police them. Some of this was arrogance, some of it need: When you're picking from the bottom of the deck each spring, you're apt to shave some corners to land talent.
The rest of the feature highlights the evolution of Hernandez from a polished high school standout to a violently paranoid thug. It details his run-ins with the law, features anecdotes about Hernandez toting a shotgun around for protection, and paints a pretty clear picture of how the DA's case could fall well short of a conviction. It also reveals that Hernandez had blown off Tom Brady this offseason and received an ultimatum from Belichick regarding his off-the-field problems.
This past spring he skipped out on team training drills, going to California to rehab an aching shoulder and take a much-needed break from New England. But while out there, according to the source, he blew off sessions with his therapist, Alex Guerrero, and stood up Tom Brady, who was running a camp for Pats receivers. Worse, the police were called out to his Hermosa Beach rental on March 25th, summoned by his fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, after a loud dispute during which Hernandez put his fist through a window. No arrest was made, but word got back to Belichick, who exploded and tendered notice: Any more disruptions and he'd be traded or cut at the end of the 2013 season.
But, perhaps, the most interesting part of the feature focuses on Hernandez's family history. His mother's arrest for her involvment in a sports book. Her affair with a coke dealer who was married to her husband's niece. Hernandez's father's rough history, second chance, and untimely death following a hernia surgery.
He might have held it together, or handled the fallout better, if Dennis had been around to see him through it. But in January 2006, Dennis checked himself in for a hernia repair at a local hospital. Something happened on the table, though, and he contracted an infection; two days later, he was dead. He was 49, in otherwise splendid health, and beloved by virtually everyone in town. His funeral, at the Church of St. Matthew, was like an affair of state: 1,500 mourners packed the biggest church in Bristol, and hundreds more waited to view the body. DJ was inconsolable, sobbing over the casket, but Aaron, 16 and shocked beyond tears, sat stone-faced. Friends tried to console him or draw him out; instead, he locked down, going mum. "He'd open up the tiniest bit, then say nothing for weeks, like it was a sign of weakness to be sad," says Beam. "His brother was at college, and the only other person he would really talk to was the one who was taken away."