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Evidence Suggests Hernandez Return Not Out Of The Question

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Aaron Hernandez may one day play again on Sundays. Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images.
Aaron Hernandez may one day play again on Sundays. Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images.

The Aaron Hernandez situation is currently the most negative storyline in sports. Once regarded one of the best tight ends in football, he’s now facing the very real possibility of life behind bars. Having been charged with murder, Hernandez’s name is no longer synonymous ferocious playmaking abilities. Rather, he’s an accused murderer whose already been convicted by the court of public opinion.

And while the general public now views Hernandez as a hardcore criminal — even before he’s been tried in a court of law — the harsh reality in the NFL is that despite Hernandez’s alleged transgressions, he remains a superior talent on the football field. Because of that, Hernandez may very well get an opportunity to return to the NFL one day.

Sounds a little ridiculous at this point, right? Not really.

Michael Vick is today’s best example of redemption after being convicted of felony charges. Granted, he was not facing a murder rap, but his crimes were not only heinous, he obstructed the investigation and was initially uncooperative with law enforcement officials. Vick went from $130 million man to state pen inmate practically overnight.

But Vick isn’t your typical NFL talent. He’s an athletic freak who arguably revolutionized how the quarterback position is played. Following his incarceration, Vick was courted by several teams in the NFL desperate for a playmaking quarterback. I’m sure you are familiar with the rest of this tale, but after landing with the Philadelphia Eagles, Vick regained his star prowess and eventually got himself another $100 million contract.

But Vick is not alone. Leonard Little was an all-pro defensive end for the Rams in the late 90’s who made a fatal mistake after leaving a birthday party in 1998. Little hit and killed a pedestrian with a blood alcohol content of 0.19, over twice the legal limit in the state of Missouri (0.08). He was convicted of manslaughter.

Apparently Little’s abilities on the gridiron trumped his destructive character. Little was back with the Rams that very next season after an eight-game suspension, received a one-year contract two years later for $512,000, then inked a $17.5 million contract in 2002.

Little’s actions in 1998 killed someone, yet he was back in the limelight months later. Why? Because he was one of the best at his position. And in the NFL, that often times disguises faulty character.

If you want further proof that NFL conglomerates are willing to overlook a player’s wrongdoings, indiscretions and alleged criminal activities, just take a look at Dante Stallworth, a skilled receiver who earned a seven-year, $35 million contract from the Cleveland Browns in 2008. A year later, Stallworth killed a pedestrian in Miami while speeding in his Bentley at 7:15 in the morning. He was allegedly drunk and reportedly under the influence of marijuana during the incident and he even admitted to drinking the night before, but toxicology reports never confirmed this. Stallworth pled guilty to DUI manslaughter. A little under a year after his conviction, Stallworth signed a one-year, $900,000 deal with the Baltimore Ravens.

Not bad for a convicted felon.

In the NFL, second chances come to those who can produce. Hernandez is under a magnifying glass right now for the worst reasons, but no one can deny his ability on the field. With tight ends becoming more and more of a commodity these days, there’s probably several teams willing to take a chance on him if he’s acquitted of murder. An acquittal on murder, but a conviction on the bevy of gun charges he’s facing will still probably land him in prison, but if history in the NFL has taught us anything, playmakers always get second chances, regardless of their past.