There probably isn't anyone happier in the Patriots locker room this week than Aaron Hernandez. On Tuesday, the day he turned 23, he welcomed his first child, a daughter named Avielle.
"That's crazy," Hernandez said. "Best birthday gift you could have, having a daughter on your birthday and especially daddy's little girl. It's an honor and I couldn't ask for my life to be better at this point. My life is pretty good and thank God for that and it's a blessing and I still feel blessed daily."
It has been a good year for Hernandez, who signed a contract extension in August, proposed to his longtime girlfriend last month, and now is a father.
He said all of it has forced him to change.
"One thing I know is it definitely changed my life and I'm going to look at things differently," Hernandez said. "I'm engaged now, I have a baby and it's just going to make me think of life a lot differently and doing things the right way because now another one's looking up to me, I can't just be 'young and reckless Aaron' no more, so I'm going to try to do the right things, become a good father and be raised like I was raised."
Hernandez had a strong relationship with his father Dennis, who died when Aaron was just 16 after complications from surgery.
He was excited to head home and see his daughter after finishing up his day at Gillette Stadium -- players didn't have any post-practice meetings and were allowed to leave earlier than usual.
Hernandez, who did not make the trip to London to face the Rams Oct. 28 because he had a setback in his recovery from an ankle injury, has practiced the last two days. Asked how he's feeling, he said, "I'm feeling pretty good. And I'm happy -- you see I'm smiling."
Instead of wearing his practice jersey, he was wearing his white game jersey. When asked about his choice of attire, he said only, "Game time! Game time!"