By: Bob George/
June 26, 2013

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NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. -- Over the next few weeks, all sports fans need to be reminded of the sacred American maxim known as the "presumption of innocence".

It is not guaranteed by the United States Constitution, but it is implied from the 5th, 6th and 14th amendments. Unlike many European countries, where the accused is guilty until proven innocent, the burden of proof in the USA is placed on the prosecuting attorneys. In a criminal trial, proof of guilt must be beyond a reasonable doubt, and in some states, also to a moral certainty, in the minds of all twelve jurors who must decide the fate of the defendant. This differs from a civil trial, where proof of guilt or responsibility must merely be on a preponderance of the evidence, and only nine of twelve jurors must find the respondent liable for the complaint.

No, this writer does not hold any law degree. Two weeks ago, Yours Truly sat in a courtroom as a prospective juror and listened to a Superior Court judge remind everyone present of every tenet of the previous paragraph. It is an encapsulation of our legal system, and every juror must have a solid grounding of what is expected of them as they prepare to pass judgment on the defendant at the bar.

So, now that everyone's memories have been fully refreshed, let us all fully understand that all tenets of the second paragraph of this article apply to Aaron Hernandez one hundred percent. If the judge I listened to were a co-author of this article, he would insist that you understand that Hernandez at this moment is innocent. He was innocent when police officers entered his North Attleborough home at 8:47 AM on Wednesday morning. He was innocent when the officers escorted him out of his home with his arms pulled out of the sleeves of the t-shirt he was wearing and his hands handcuffed behind his back. He was innocent when he was placed into the police vehicle and taken in for processing and arraignment. He was still innocent when, at his arraignment in Attleboro District Court on Wednesday afternoon, he was charged with murder and five separate counts of illegal possession of firearms.

Yes, Hernandez is innocent. He is as innocent as a little baby. He is as innocent as anyone defended by Perry Mason. He is as innocent as Whitey Bulger currently is as he is having his day in Federal court. He is as innocent as O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony and Ray Lewis were after being the accused in high profile murder cases.

But you'll have a hard time remembering Hernandez's legal rights. You'll remember him being led from his home in cuffs. You'll remember that a man is dead and that Hernandez has been accused of his killing. You'll also remember that the Patriots may be severely harmed as they head into the 2013 season, this being the low point of what has been a most trying and at times eventful offseason.

The Patriots released Hernandez once he was arrested, meaning now that both the All-Pro Patriot tight ends will not be on the field to start the year. Rob Gronkowski underwent back surgery last week and was placed on the PUP list, meaning he won't be available until perhaps Week 7 of the upcoming year. Combined with the loss of Wes Welker to Denver via free agency, the Patriot offense is in a state of flux and may not be the same going into the coming season. This is a team that won the conference title in 2011 and lost the title game in 2012, both games at home against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Patriots be hanged. There are two very glaring issues at hand, and none of them have to do with how Tom Brady will cope with all this and why the hell the Patriots took a flyer on Tim Tebow.

First of all, there is Odin Lloyd of Dorchester, the victim, and the grieving family he leaves behind. These people are who you need to be keeping in your thoughts.

Second of all, the Patriot Way, the most respected brand in the NFL over the last two decades, is no longer what it is or what it used to be.

All the Patriots will be from now on is a winning organization with an iconic owner, an iconic head coach, an iconic quarterback, and three Super Bowl wins since Y2K. There is no question that Bob Kraft has built a bedrock NFL franchise, and how the Patriots transformed themselves from the buffoons they sometimes used to be under Billy Sullivan and Victor Kiam to what they are today represents a sports miracle that should be admired by all now and in the future.

But Kraft needs to cease all this propaganda about the Patriot Way and what it is. What it is is more like what it was, if it really was at all.

The Patriots built who they are based on a sound corporate philosophy and bringing in high quality people who would make Kraft proud as well as make the Patriots winners. Along with his late wife Myra, Kraft would take a personal interest in whomever entered the employ of the Patriots. If Bill Belichick would validate that the people brought in were high quality football people, Kraft would make sure that they were high quality people.

Things changed slightly in 2004 when the Patriots brought in troubled Cincinnati running back Corey Dillon. He was a malcontent in Cincinnati, sick and tired of constant losing. When he lost his starting job to Rudi Johnson, he was traded to the Patriots and helped them win Super Bowl XXXIX, their most recent win to date. He divorced his wife in 2010 after being arrested for possible spousal abuse (thanks, Wikipedia).

After Dillon came legendary bad boys Randy Moss and Albert Haynesworth. Moss did help the Patriots go 18-0 in 2007 with he and Tom Brady setting NFL records for receiving and passing touchdowns. The Patriots lost the Super Bowl, but if the defense had held on the last Giants scoring drive, Moss would have had the game-winning touchdown. But Moss eventually blazed his way out of town with lazy on-field performances and rambling, unflattering press conferences. Haynesworth was just plain lazy and never lived up to his vast potential, here in Foxborough or anywhere else.

Now you have Hernandez, a player with a troubled past whom the Patriots took a flyer on in 2010. He was very good and at times brilliant during his brief Patriot career, showing great versatility and providing matchup problems for defenses because of his hybrid makeup. Hernandez is now in jail in Attleborough, charged with Lloyd's murder and whose image in Patriot Nation has now been forever changed.

The Patriots are high on propaganda and have been since Kraft bought the Patriots in 1994, and even more so when Belichick was brought in in 2000. It's a good thing that the Patriots continue to win on the field, because all this other ancillary stuff has grown old. From the CBS Place to all this holier-than-Thou malarkey about their players and coaches, it's time that all this fluff stops. The Patriots are a beloved commodity in the area without all this extraneous junk. They are a proven winner and a fan magnet. They have become the preeminent team in the area, and given the long history of the Red Sox, that is really saying something.

Hernandez has pretty much ended the Patriot Way as we once knew it. The Patriots should now be about winning, just like the other 31 NFL teams, and less about being like a Ken Burns baseball tale. The Patriots certainly can win, and do it quite well. But the Patriots are not on their own pedestal like they would like you to believe that they are. They are just like everyone else. Police the players internally, let Belichick do his thing, and just keep winning.

The accused Hernandez must now hope his lawyers do their thing, but if he is guilty, then he must bear full responsibility. If it proven that Hernandez killed Lloyd, he must pay for his crime. Lloyd's family deserves no less.

Whatever becomes of the Patriots because of this matters nothing at all. The Patriots will move on, already having released Hernandez.

But in moving on, they are just another team. And let us never hear about the Patriot Way ever again.