The New England Patriots have been the model franchise for the National Football League. Owner Robert Kraft embodies all the best values we look for in sports -- character, integrity, stability and high standards for off-field behavior. They were the team that released defensive tackle Christian Peter, who they drafted in the fifth round in 1996, two days after picking him when they discovered a disturbing history of prior arrests. How did they ever choose to draft murder suspect Aaron Hernandez who dropped to the fourth round because of character issues at the University of Florida? And why did they waive him after the arrest, not waiting for the trial, and losing valuable rights in regard to him in the process?

NFL teams spend millions of dollars and endless months scouting college players. This is an era of the salary cap and the consequence of having a player who has been paid a large signing bonus and other guaranteed money be disqualified for behavioral reasons is disastrous. The team not only loses the cash it has spent, the signing bonus is amortized for cap purposes over the length of the contract. When a team loses a player for any reason -- all that yearly-amortized cap bonus immediately is pulled into the current year and creates a "dead cap space" problem. Not only does the team not have the player, it does not have the cap room to replace him.

This is why franchises hire security screeners and employ a variety of techniques to weed out potentially self-destructive players. They do psychological tests, extensive interviews, talk to coaches, and do research.
Evidently the warning signs in respect to Hernandez potential for troubling behavior were discovered by many teams in scouting. Hernandez was a First Round talent but teams shied away from him so that he was passed in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft. The Patriots have the reputation of the team least tolerant in the NFL of bad behavior.

So what happened? Only the scouts and director of player personnel and coaches know the answer. Part of being a coach is the belief that somehow the right environment and coaching techniques will bring out the best in a player. Hope springs eternal. The Patriots have taken some troubled veterans onto their roster who have flourished in that system, like wide receiver Randy Moss.

By waiving him the day of his arrest, the Patriots are presuming his guilt. If Hernandez is found not guilty later and this all is a unfair mistake, the team is taking the position that even being involved in a questionable situation is grounds for dismissal. All of their top receivers from last year are now gone or injured. Star tight end Rob Gronkowski just underwent surgery and star wide receiver Wes Welker left in free agency. Moreover, the Patriots have lost the right to recover some of the signing bonus for the five-year $40 million contract extension they signed him to.

This is a vivid example of how even the best sports franchise, with the best scouting and evaluative process can make a very costly mistake.

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Apparently fed up with the comparisons between his former teammate Ray Lewis and Aaron Hernandez, Ravens receiver Torrey Smith took to Twitter on Thursday afternoon: "Crazy how Ray still gets talked about in relation to Hernandez incident," he wrote. "When it has nothing to do with this and he wasn't convicted."

The cases were different: One was allegedly done with a knife. One with a gun. One victim was a stranger and one was an alleged friend. But the arrest and charging of Hernandez quickly brought to the Lewis case to the forefront of social media and talk radio. That case ended in a way, at least to this point, that Hernandez can only hope for: Lewis pleading guilty to obstruction of justice charges.

So how similar are the cases? Lewis' defense attorney, Ed Garland, who has also represented Ben Rothlisberger among other NFLers in criminal cases, points to a few factors that are true among all big cases: A huge media presence that can affect the defense's strategy and a huge amount of money to hire the best expert witnesses, a large team of lawyers and investigators to figure out what really happened and if there's any chance of getting Hernandez out of prison.

The first steps lawyers take in cases like these, Garland says, is to control the media before it poisons your jury pool.

"You are extremely alert to the fact that there's going to be media everywhere and the media are going to frame a perspective on your client certainly that's happening in Hernandez case at this time," he said. "Of course what has been coming out and coming out rapidly are all facts which incriminate or appear to incriminate him if they're true. So the first decision is how do you deal with the media issue: Do you start making comments or do you take the position that we’re investigating this case and I’ll have comments for later and make a brief statement to the press so at first?"

Then, it's controlling the entourage of agents, publicists and other members of the football star's team.

"The lawyer has to establish he is the general who must be obeyed and establish the trust with the client where the client will let the lawyer make the decisions and not attempt to override the lawyers' decisions on the defense," he said.

As for the individual cases themselves, Garland says there are, according to reports, issues of childhood friends in both cases.

"It certainly grows out of an environment in which associates of the athlete apparently play some role," he said. "And I don't think anyone knows the full facts of this case and from the media reports I've read, I’m unclear (if) there are other people, but you have the similarity that you come from the environment in which there were outside influences from his childhood."

The biggest difference, at least so far in the case, he says, is that the Ravens were willing to work with their star player and were informed of possible holes in the prosecution's case throughout the process. Garland said lawyers for Baltimore's squad were even part of the vetting process that selected him to represent Lewis.

“I think the difference is when the powers that existed in the Ravens took a look at the evidence there were clearly substantial questions about the guilt or innocence of Ray Lewis and they chose to honor the process," he said.

The Patriots, it seems, weren't about to wait around for more evidence or news stories to come out, could be a bad sign for Hernandez. (While Hernandez is a very good player for the Patriots, he was not nearly the kind of team icon that Lewis had become as the first draft pick in franchise history when he was charged in 2000.)

“Somewhere here the team has reached a conclusion that they are not going to follow a similar process or they have made a judgment that the evidence is overwhelming,” Garland added.

As for what happens in the future, Hernandez still has time to be cleared off of waivers by another team (though it seems unlikely that will be the case). He's currently being held in jail without bail. And his lawyers, said Garland, are likely quickly expanding their team and looking for any trace of his innocence.

Hernandez's mother, Terri Hernandez, spoke out Thursday to the Bristol Press. "All I can say is that he will be cleared of all these charges in the end," she said. "Just let it play out until the end."

Perhaps the saddest part of comparing Hernandez’s cases to others is that Lewis' case wasn't the only one with parallels. Rae Curruth was charged with attempting to murder the mother of their child, Jovan Belcher did just that before shooting himself and a Browns’ rookie was charged with attempted murder this week. And in a sad irony: Nineteen years ago this week, came one of the most famous Sports Illustrated covers of all time.

It featured O.J. Simpson with a simple headline: “The Charge: Murder."

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As long as the colors red and blue have been synonymous with political dividing lines, they have had a prominent place in sports history. The colors famously divided hockey fans. Of the same team. "Red seats suck, red seats suck" was the chant directed by blue-seated New York Rangers fans toward the inhabitants of the more expensive, red section seats. In today’s world, this chant might have different lyrics: "Thank you, red seats, thank you, red seats." How could this be? It's economics: The more luxury suites there are, the lower ticket prices can be in the near future for the rest of us.

Sports teams' economics have changed. The days when gate receipts accounted for the bulk of a team's income are long gone. The most successful teams are driving more revenue through broadcasting rights, licensing rights, sponsorships and, yes, more luxurious corporate suites. New stadium construction is seeing 20 percent of seating allocated to club and premium seats. NFL stadiums in particular are seeing lucrative opportunities with premium seating. Cowboys Stadium produces approximately $115 million from its 320 luxury suites and 15,000 premium seats alone. In their new stadium, the 49ers will add 9,000 club seats that they never had before.

In this new economic order, the increased revenue from suits-in-suites gives teams the opportunity to re-value the diehard, face-painted, not-so-polite chanting fan. Why? Because the corporate luxury suites and big sponsorship signage work best when they are the backdrop to rows and rows of enthusiastic, wild-eyed fans putting on their own show. In a world of multi-billion dollar broadcast rights deals, taxpayer-assisted new stadium construction, rising luxury box revenues -- diehard fan attendance still matters. And so does casual fan attendance.

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Jay Williams won a national title at Duke and then became the second overall pick in the 2002 NBA draft behind Yao Ming. Then after his rookie season with the Bulls in which he averaged 9.5 points and 4.7 assists, Williams endured a brutal motorcycle accident that ended his career and nearly killed him.

He made some comeback attempts. The Nets and Heat gave him a tryouts. He spent some time in the D League. But he never played again in the NBA, and struggled at times with depression. But he got back on the beam to become a rising star at ESPN as a college basketball analyst. Ten years after the crash, HBO's "Real Sports" catches up with his story. The latest edition of the show premieres 10 p.m. ET/PT Tuesday. Here is a snippet:

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Dirk Nowitzki has just about done it all. The seven-footer is an 11-time All-Star, 12-time All-NBA Team member, an MVP and an NBA Champion. But the former MVP is still hungry, with perhaps an even bigger appetite for his second championship.

After a tough start to his NBA career, the German quickly turned the Dallas Mavericks from one of the worst teams in the league into perennial championship contenders. Nowitzki led the Mavericks to 12 straight playoff appearances, including an illustrious championship win over the Miami Heat in 2011.

But before they could even celebrate, the tide soon turned in Dallas. In an attempt to lure the NBA’s hottest free agent that summer, the Mavericks didn’t resign most of their core players in order to create salary cap room. This plan backfired, as the franchise didn’t hit any home runs in free agency and was forced to sign underachieving players to one year contracts. After back-to-back disappointing years, Dallas is determined to surround Nowitzki with great players and rebuild its championship roster.

“At this point in my career, its all about competing and winning,” Nowitzki told Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Nowitzki has said he’s willing to take a “significant pay cut” in order to help the team sign a hot free agent. The Mavericks have their eye on Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, but also have taken interest in Jarrett Jack and DeMarcus Cousins.

In the same interview with ESPN, Nowitzki explained his admiration for the team's owner, Mark Cuban. “Cuban took care of me for a long, long time. I always tried to pay him back by hard playing and being here for this franchise, so I don’t think we’re going to fight over money." This passion for the game has helped Nowitzki remain the centerpiece for Dallas since he was drafted in 1998.

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In perhaps the saddest news ever for Taiwanese baseball fans (of which we've all learned so much about in recent years), Manny Ramirez is leaving the EDA Rhinos after three months, according to reports.

Ramirez, according to the AFP had a clause in his contract allowing him to opt out after three months. He reportedly told the team of his plans on Wednesday. The team said he told his teammates he missed his family.

"We've tried everything we could to see if he would like to change his mind," the Rhinos said in a statement.

Ramirez retired from MLB in 2011 after testing positive for taking performance enhancing drugs. His future plans are not immediately clear, but we all hope he'll consider a career that involves more Moonwalking. According to the website Focus Taiwan, there are rumors he is heading to Japan, where he will make considerably more money than he is making now.

It's also, let's be honest, possible he's just heading home.

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By Jerry R. Caldwell
The Legal Blitz

As a former Division I athlete and now an attorney, I sit and anxiously anticipate the decision that will come from U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken on Thursday similar to the nation of basketball fans awaiting “The Decision” of LeBron James as a free agent three years ago. If you have been hiding under a rock or just not really interested in "The Decision" as it relates to the lawsuit by former UCLA college basketball star Ed O'Bannon against the "bully" known as the NCAA, I will attempt to catch you up to speed without boring you with a history lesson or a law lecture.

About two years ago Ed O’Bannon filed a lawsuit against the NCAA alleging a violation of federal antitrust laws. Obviously, the NCAA, as it has done for years, responded with the innocence of a child who has been accused of eating cookies before dinner evidenced by chocolate and crumbs all over their face. In fact, their position is so unbelievable that it hardly passes the laugh test to those that have suffered the most -- former and current student athletes. Subsequently, other individuals, notably basketball greats Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell, joined O’Bannon asserting their claims in hopes of being certified as a class action lawsuit.

Now I promised I would not give a law lecture, however providing you with some background law will assist you in gaining a full understanding of Judge Wilken's upcoming monumental Decision. Class action lawsuits were vehicles created initially as a more efficient way to bring a resolution to a large number of claims by individuals who have suffered similar physical or financial injuries as a result of the same defendant’s actions. I'm sure many of you have received that small piece of paper in the mail that mentions that you may be entitled to some money as a result of a class action lawsuit against ABC Company only to find out later, you would receive $1.25. (So much for quitting your job). I digress.

Besides being financially prohibitive to the plaintiffs, it would also be a huge waste of time for the court and the defendant to both try and defend all of those claims individually. It goes to the saying that "There is strength in numbers." Individually, the claims against a defendant are small, but collectively, it makes for a totally different outcome.

Over the years, the perception of class action lawsuits has been that plaintiffs' attorneys have abused them to pressure companies to settle lawsuits that may lack merit and/or are baseless. As an attorney, I’ve come to appreciate judicial efficiency, a fancy phrase for getting cases resolved in a timely manner.

A very important step in the class action lawsuit process is that a lawsuit does not become a class action until (and unless) the court enters an order under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure certifying it as such. Most importantly, if a plaintiff succeeds in persuading the court to certify the case as a class action, the defendant almost certainly is forced to negotiate a settlement agreement to avoid any future bad publicity, expenses, and most importantly an increased exposure to a crippling jury verdict.

One significant disadvantage of a class action is that if the plaintiffs lose the lawsuit, they're prohibited from filing individual suits later. This is why it is important to opt out of a class action if you feel that your damages are substantially higher than the rest of the class.

Fast forward with me to “The Decision” of June 20, 2013. Will the bully known as the NCAA fall from its throne or will it continue to "pimp" student-athletes as the financial pie continues to grow?

In my opinion, no matter whether Judge Wilken decides to certify the class (advantage plaintiffs) or not certify the class (advantage NCAA); the NCAA will not tumble and disappear. However, I do think that if the judge decides to certify the class, there will be changes in the way the NCAA operates, but student-athletes will not pour into the streets of their respective campuses as if they just won a NCAA championship.

This week's Decision will only address the issues that are currently on the table; however, there are many issues that surround student athletes that will likely go unaddressed which will ultimately leave the big pink elephant in the room that no one, other than student-athletes, wants to discuss: compensation.

Before any one starts throwing stones at me or unfriending me on social media, I'm not arguing for college athletes to be paid salaries, I'm simply saying remove the restrictions and allow them to enjoy their fair share of the revenue pie because the last time I checked, they are the only ones scoring touchdowns, scoring baskets, and/or hitting homeruns, and currently their "compensation" is a "free education." If you ask my wife, she would argue that my education was far from "free" based upon the sounds of my knees and back in the morning.

I'm remaining hopeful that "The Decision" will serve as a catalyst for open dialogue as it relates to college athletics. Just because the current business model works for a few does not mean that it is the best option. As I often tell administrators from various universities that I encounter, there are a lot of smart people in the world. Let's at least initiate dialogue to discuss how everyone can benefit and not just a few. Change is inevitable, so you have to embrace it. Right now, college athletics is due for some changes and I hope on June 20, 2013 that "The Decision” is the beginning.

So as the deadline approaches, where will you be when Judge Wilken's Decision is announced? Hopefully in South Beach!

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The Patriots have signed quarterback Tim Tebow. They may be the only team in the NFL that can manage the consequences. It was a long, cold process for Tebow as he searched for an NFL team to sign with after being cut by the New York Jets. He is a gifted player but there had been no takers. Why?

Tebow had a transcendent Florida career and won the Heisman Trophy. He was drafted in the first round by the Denver Broncos in 2010. When he got a chance to start, he took them on an improbable run of thrilling last-minute victories that electrified the country. The last several minutes of a game were called "Tebow Time." But the signing of Peyton Manning by the Broncos triggered a trade to the Jets.

Tim Tebow may be the most popular player with fans in the NFL. He is handsome, well spoken, a consummate role model. In an era of disturbing headlines regarding athletic misbehavior, his strong principles and spiritual values have made him a beacon of hope. He is a hero to the large following of fundamentalist Christianity. He has vaulted beyond the narrow genre of sports to become a household name -- every move covered with celebrity status. And therein lies the problem.

Unless Tebow is the starting quarterback for a team it puts extreme pressure on the starter. The minute the incumbent quarterback throws an interception or loses a game the "We Want Tebow" chants start. A starting quarterback needs rhythm and stability and confidence.

Doug Flutie, former BC, CFL, Patriot, Bear and Charger quarterback, had a similar effect based on his college heroics and good looks. The difficulty arises because of the widely shared doubt that Tebow has the package of skills necessary to lead a team to a Super Bowl at the quarterback position.

He is undersized. He does not throw a consistently accurate ball, nor have the arm strength for the deep pass required in today's offense. He is not a speedy scrambler. He is, however, a gifted athlete with exemplary work habits and football instincts. Used correctly in a novel way in the offense he can be an effective weapon. But, the deeply held belief inside the NFL that he is not a viable candidate for a starting quarterback job is not shared by much of the public.

The only type of franchise that can withstand the media barrage that will occasion his signing and the endless coverage of his every move is a secure, stable, winning team with a popular superstar with proven results at the quarterback position. Enter the Patriots.

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When the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks face off for the Stanley Cup starting Wednesday night, it will be a duel of historic NHL franchises that have never met on hockey’s grandest stage. In fact, Boston and Chicago have had very little championship contact in any sport, which is surprising considering the size and collective athletic histories of both cities.

It can't happen in the NBA with the Celtics and Bulls in the same conference. But there have been just two
Boston-Chicago matchups for a major professional sports championship: The 1918 World Series and the 1986 Super Bowl. Here is a look back at some highlights and comparisons from those series.

Lasting Cultural Legacy

1918 World Series: Curse of the Bambino

The 86 years between 1918 and 2004 were miserable for Boston fans. Popular lore traced their World Series drought to the sale of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees after the 1919 season. Although talk of a "curse' did not really surface until the late 20th century, there was still a feeling of demons being exorcised when they won in 2004. But the fans of Boston’s 1918 World Series opponent, the Cubs, are still waiting for their drought of more than a century to end.

Super Bowl XX: Super Bowl Shuffle

Months before they actually won the Super Bowl, the Bears released a rap video called “The Super Bowl Shuffle” that featured the team rhyming and dancing to the catchy tune. Long before the YouTube era, the Bears could be considered pioneers of the team music video (think Miami Heat Harlem Shake), and they made good on that Super Bowl promise.

Fun Fact

1918 World Series:

The Cubs' home games in the World Series were played at Comiskey Park, home of the Chicago White Sox. Four-year-old Wrigley Field, then known as Weeghman Park, did not yet have sufficient seating capacity to host the World Series.

Super Bowl XX:

The Bears ran defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan's "46 Defense" and then beat the Patriots 46-10. Named for Bears strong safety Doug Plank (above, left), who wore jersey No. 46, the blitz-happy scheme gave opposing offenses nightmares in the mid-1980s. Although no modern-day NFL team runs a true “46,” the scheme still has widespread influence.

Iconic Player

1918 World Series: Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth carried the Red Sox to three World Series titles with his arm before leading the Yankees to four with his bat. He is third all-time with 714 home runs and ranks tops in MLB history in Wins Above Replacement, according to both Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com. Ruth won Games 1 and 4 of the 1918 World Series.

Super Bowl XX: Walter Payton

The former NFL rushing king played all 13 of his seasons with the Bears. Although he was nearing the end by the 1986 Super Bowl, he managed to run for 1,551 yards during the regular season when his 4.8 yards per carry was the second highest of his career. He carried the ball 22 times for 61 yards in the Super Bowl victory.

Battle of the Nicknames

1918 World Series: Hippo Vaughn, Bullet Joe Bush, Sad Sam Jones

James "Hippo" Vaughn was a pitcher for the Cubs, while Bush and Jones pitched for the Red Sox. Vaughn was the losing pitcher in Games 1 and 3 but beat Jones in Game 5. Jones earned his nickname for his demeanor on the mound, though winning the series hopefully made him a little happier. Bush, who is credited with popularizing the forkball pitch, picked up a save in Game 4 despite losing Game 2. George Herman Ruth also had quite a few nicknames himself.

Super Bowl XX: William "The Refrigerator” Perry

It’s easy to understand why the massive defensive lineman was known as “The Refrigerator.” He earned the nickname as a freshman at Clemson University, when he helped the Tigers to a national title. The name followed him into the NFL, and in his rookie season with the Bears, Perry scored a Super Bowl touchdown on a goal-line sneak.

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As the controversy over the Redskins' name continues to heat up, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote a letter to the Co-Chairs of the Native American Caucus defending the name and saying that it was never "meant to denigrate Native Americans or offend any group."

"The Washington Redskins name has thus from its origin represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context,” he wrote. “For the team’s millions of fans and customers, who represent one of America's most ethnically and geographically diverse fan bases, the name is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”

In a letter last month, 10 members of Congress urged Redskins owner Dan Snyder and Goodell to consider changing the name. The request was immediately shot down by Snyder who said he would "NEVER. You can put that in capital letters."

Goodell, who has been dodging similar questions about the name since the Super Bowl, was much more polite in his letter, but doesn't seem to be budging on the issue. He cites opinion polls that he claims shows people favor the name and calls the issue "complex."

"The National Football League takes seriously its responsibility to exemplify the values of diversity and inclusion that make our nation great," he added. "To that end, please be assured that we are committed to working with the team, this Caucus and others to continue to reinforce the many positive attributes represented by the team’s name and marks."

You can read the whole letter here.

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