BY NICK ST. DENIS
But not by Deion Branch's account. (photo: Karen Cardoza, Flickr)
Probably not intentionally, the former Patriots receiver Branch recently made some head-turning comments about Hernandez, who was charged with murder last week and is a suspect in two other murders.
“Aaron is a great guy and a great friend of mine and a great teammate,” Branch told The Albany Herald at his annual skills camp at Albany State University. “I love him to death, and it was shocking to hear his name involved in this situation. I truly hope and pray he doesn’t have any dealings with it.”
Branch's comments come less than a week after former teammate and highly-respected (now retired) offensive lineman Matt Light told The Dayton Daily News he has "never believed in anything Aaron Hernandez stood for." Light isn't one to speak negatively about anyone.
Days before that, an NFL source told The Boston Globe Hernandez threatened to "f*ck [Wes Welker] up" when the veteran wideout said "Rookie, you figure it out" after Hernandez, then in his first year, asked Welker for help operating film equipment at the team's facility.
Those two notes, along with his reported gang ties and recent developments, don't speak highly of his character.
Hernandez was released by the Patriots Wednesday promptly after he was arrested in connection with the murder of Odin Lloyd, and the ex-NFLer was charged with murder shortly after. Taking it a step further, the team is offering fans an opportunity to trade in his jersey over a two-day period next week.
It doesn't appear Branch would be ready to turn in his Hernandez jersey just yet.
“That’s my guy, man,” Branch said. “That’s my guy. It really shocked me. He was a great kid. Overall, I hope the best that he isn’t involved with it and I hope he gets his name cleared, but most importantly I send my prayers and condolences out to the Lloyd family.”