Seven years have passed since Aaron Hernandez played in the Super Bowl with the Patriots. As part of the Boston Globe’s six-part multimedia series and investigative podcast, “Gladiator: Aaron Hernandez and Football Inc.,’’ reporters listened to recordings of hundreds of phone calls Hernandez made from jail, including many to friends who are still playing in the NFL.
Listen to the latest episode of the “Gladiator” podcast
Warning: Audio contains adult language
The reporters were struck by how often the former Patriots star and the NFL players discussed the injuries they suffered in the game and the painkillers they took to stay on the field. Now, with the Patriots preparing to return to the Super Bowl for the fourth time since Hernandez was charged with killing Odin Lloyd in 2013, the Globe has joined its podcast partner Wondery to produce a bonus episode of “Gladiator’’ that explores the role of pain and painkillers in the lives of current and retired NFL players.
The bonus episode, hosted by the Globe investigative sports reporter Bob Hohler, was released Tuesday. Hohler talks with several retired NFL players, including former Patriots Brandon Lloyd and Ryan O’Callaghan, as well as Dr. Thomas Gill, who served as the Patriots team doctor for many years, including Hernandez’s entire career. Hernandez and his NFL friends also are heard discussing their experiences with pain and painkillers.
Hernandez and current Patriots star Rob Gronkowski formed the most productive tight end tandem in NFL history in the 2011 season when they combined for 169 catches, 2,237 receiving yards, and 24 touchdowns. Hernandez’s career ended in 2013 when he was charged with killing Lloyd, a semipro football player from Dorchester. He was sentenced to life in prison for Lloyd’s murder and took his own life behind bars in 2017 at the age of 27.
Hernandez was diagnosed after his death with the worst case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the football-related brain disease known as CTE, for a person his age. This would have been his final season with the Patriots under the $41.1 million contract he signed with the team in 2012.