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In usual Patriots fashion, the team is staying quiet about former teammate Aaron Hernandez and the murder charge he is facing in the death of Odin Lloyd. However, this code of silence apparently does not apply to retired or former players.
Former Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch is the latest to speak out publicly on his former teammate. Branch, who spent the last three seasons with the team, two of them as Hernandez’s teammate, has not jumped on the guilty bandwagon yet and has come to his friend’s defense. Branch, who also used to live in North Attleboro, told the Albany Press during his eighth annual Skills and Drills camp, “Aaron is a great guy and a great friend of mine and a great teammate. I love him to death, and it was shocking to hear his name involved in this situation. I truly hope and pray he doesn’t have any dealings with it.”
Branch, an 11-year veteran in the league and now a free agent, probably is not helping his chances of signing with a team by coming out and supporting his former teammate.
Branch also went on to say, “That’s my guy, man….. It really shocked me. He was a great kid. Overall, I hope the best that he isn’t involved with it and I hope he gets his name cleared, but most importantly I send my prayers and condolences out to the Lloyd family.”
Branch, who is in the minority when it comes to his innocent-until-proven guilty mentality and is one of the few people still standing by Hernandez, is not ready to distance himself from Hernandez, unlike most that already have.
Hernandez has been charged with first-degree murder along with five gun possession charges and is currently being held without bail. Police are also investigating Hernandez’s possible connection to an unsolved double homicide in 2012, which some speculate may have been a motive for Hernandez to murder Lloyd.
The Patriots were the first to severe ties with Hernandez. The team cut Hernandez shortly after his arrest, while we all assumed he would be charged with obstruction of justice and not murder. They soon went on to erase all memory of Hernandez by taking his jerseys off their ProShop racks and offered a free exchange for owners of Hernandez jerseys. The NFL went a step further by deleting all of Hernandez’s statistics from their website. In the past week, Hernandez has also been dropped by endorsers Muscle Milk and Puma, all of this without a trial or conviction.
The comments by Branch are in stark contrast to comments made earlier in the week by retired Patriots offensive lineman, Matt Light. During an interview, Light told the Dayton Daily news,“I never talk about other guys, but I will say I have never embraced — never believed in — anything Aaron Hernandez stood for.” The comment by Light is a better representation of what the majority of people are thinking right now.