FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots acted swiftly in cutting Aaron Hernandez after he was arrested in late June. But they didn’t follow protocol, and the NFL Players Association is fighting on Hernandez’s behalf to collect money it feels he is rightly owed.
According to a league source, the NFLPA filed two grievances against the Patriots on Hernandez’s behalf on Wednesday.
One to compel the team to pay Hernandez a large signing bonus payment due next March, and the other to force the team to pay him guaranteed money for 2013 and 2014, as spelled out in the contract he signed in August 2012.
Overall, the NFLPA is now fighting for Hernandez to collect $6.292 million in guaranteed money from the Patriots: base salaries of $1.323 million and $1.137 million in 2013 and 2014, an $82,000 workout bonus from this year, a $500,000 workout bonus next year, and a $3.25 million signing bonus payment due March 31, 2014.
Hernandez, awaiting trial on murder and weapons charges, has been suspended indefinitely by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. But the timing of the Patriots’ moves with Hernandez complicated matters for the team.
The team terminated Hernandez’s contract approximately 90 minutes after he was arrested and led away from his home in handcuffs, but before he had been formally charged with murder and before his suspension from Goodell.
In the grievances, the NFLPA argues that the Patriots cut Hernandez “for skill or performance, salary-cap reasons, or injury,” which should entitle him to the guaranteed money in his contract listed above.
The Patriots declined to comment Wednesday, but have previously indicated that they believe they are entitled to withhold all future payments because Hernandez’s arrest in connection with a murder, in their view, grossly violated his contract and the NFL’s player conduct policy.
They possibly could have avoided this legal battle had they waited for the judicial process to take its course, or for Goodell to suspend Hernandez first. But Robert and Jonathan Kraft said disassociating the team from Hernandez was more important than dealing with legal and salary-cap issues.
Hernandez’s 2012 contract extension guaranteed him $16 million through 2014 and had a total value of slightly less than $40 million. He has received approximately $9.8 million via salary, signing bonus, and workout bonus. He is counting $2.55 million against the Patriots’ salary cap this year and $7.5 million next year, before coming off the books in 2015. His charge against the Patriots’ salary cap will likely increase if the NFLPA wins the grievance.
Receiver Danny Amendola and guard Dan Connolly suffered concussions in last Sunday’s win over the Saints, and both missed practice on Wednesday. They were two of five players who did not participate, joining cornerback Aqib Talib, defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, and running back Leon Washington. It’s the highest number of injury-related absences for the Patriots at any practice this season.
Talib was listed with a hip injury, which he suffered against the Saints. Kelly (knee) and Washington (ankle) were hurt Oct. 6 at Cincinnati; neither practiced last week.
Amendola was seen walking through the locker room following practice but did not speak with reporters.
Receiver Julian Edelman (thigh), safety Devin McCourty (shoulder), and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (knee) were added to the practice report. All three were listed under limited participation, and were joined by tight end Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm), running back Brandon Bolden (knee), safety Tavon Wilson (hamstring), and wide receiver Matthew Slater (wrist).
Lost in translation
The day after the Jets beat the Buccaneers in the season opener, and three days before they came to Gillette Stadium for a game with the Patriots, Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson went on WFAN radio in New York and seemingly guaranteed a victory.
“We’re going to go to Foxborough and get this win,” Wilkerson said last month. “We’re going to be 2-0.”
The Patriots won that game, 13-10, the fifth straight time they’ve knocked off the Jets. While speaking with New England media during a Wednesday conference call, Wilkerson was asked if he had any more victory guarantees for Sunday’s rematch.
“I don’t know who told you I guaranteed. I didn’t guarantee anything,” Wilkerson said. “Those words didn’t come out of my mouth.”
The eye has it
Tom Brady was sporting a black-and-blue shiner under his right eye when he met with the media on Wednesday. How did he get it? “Yeah, I know. I got [it] in the game at some point. One of those dirty plays,” Brady said, before catching himself and breaking into a smile. “It happens.” . . . In addition to placing linebacker Jerod Mayo on injured reserve, the Patriots made two roster moves. They re-signed defensive tackle Andre Neblett, and signed cornerback Travis Howard to the practice squad. Neblett was originally signed by the Patriots last Wednesday, but was released three days later. Howard played at Ohio State and was signed by the Texans as an undrafted free agent in May before being released Aug. 27 . . . Neither defensive lineman Armond Armstead nor receiver Mark Harrison, who were eligible to come off the non-football-injury list, returned to practice on Wednesday . . . Asked about team depth and how important it is, coach Bill Belichick said, “It’s pretty important. You can’t have a team without players.”