A new $20M lawsuit filed against the NFL and the Patriots on behalf of the family of the late Aaron Hernandez claims he had a "'severe' degenerative brain disease that caused him to hang himself in his jail cell," according to Bob McGovern of the BOSTON HERALD. Shortly after his April 19 suicide, the Hernandez family attorney, Jose Baez, had the former NFLer's brain sent to Boston Univ. for "testing." BU CTE Center Dir Dr. Ann McKee concluded that the 27-year-old Hernandez, who "played just three years in the NFL, had stage 3 of the disease -- stage 4 is the worst -- according to the findings, which were returned Aug. 17." The new lawsuit is separate from a $1B settlement in which the NFL has "agreed to pay families of players who suffered brain injuries while playing in the league" (BOSTON HERALD, 9/22). NBC's Mike Florio said of the new lawsuit, "Unless he (Hernandez) opted out and I'd be shocked if he did, he's got nothing to stand on here. He's got nowhere to go and I'd like to think his lawyer is smart enough to realize that so it would be interesting to see how this one plays out" ("PFT," NBCSN, 9/22). In Boston, McDonald, Freyer & Hohler in a front-page piece report BU confirmed that Hernandez' brain was the "most severe case of CTE they had ever seen in a person of his age" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/22). NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy said that the league had "not yet seen the lawsuit and could not comment." A Patriots spokesperson "did not immediately respond" (AP, 9/21).
STORY CONTINUES: In N.Y., Ken Belson in a front-page piece reports the results of the study of Hernandez' brain are "adding another dimension to his meteoric rise and fall that could raise questions about the root of his erratic, violent behavior and lead to a potentially tangled legal fight with the NFL." The fact that Hernandez also "led a troubled life off the field will complicate the NFL’s efforts to calm jitters about the sport because it will probably make some people wonder whether football had a role in his violence away from the game" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/22). In DC, Maese & Payne note the lawsuit does "not link Hernandez’s crimes with the disease, which is associated with aggressiveness, erratic behavior, depression, suicidal thoughts and other cognitive issues, but does state he 'succumbed to the symptoms of CTE and committed suicide'" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/22). ESPN The Magazine's Kevin Van Valkenburg wrote on Twitter, "What if both of these things are true: -- football damaged Aaron Hernandez's brain -- Hernandez was still a sociopath and that isn't on football" (TWITTER.com, 9/21).
NOT A GOOD LOOK FOR NFL: USA TODAY's Nancy Armour writes under the header, "Aaron Hernandez Had CTE And That's A Huge Problem For NFL." It was "easy to absolve football when it is players in their 60s and 70s whose memories and personalities had disappeared" Armour: "But a 27 year old? The NFL is going to own that whether it wants to or not" (USA TODAY, 9/22). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel wrote under the header, "That Aaron Hernandez Had CTE Is Devastating News For The NFL." Based on his age, a CTE diagnosis this significant "comes as not just a surprise, but a chilling moment for a sport that is trying everything to both make the game safer and convince young athletes, and their parents, that it is worth playing" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/21). SI.com's Michael Rosenberg writes it "would be simple and easy to blame football for what happened" to Hernandez. Maybe "all the dots really do connect in this case." Maybe "just some of them do." But the "truth is that we don’t know, and we may never know." Rosenberg: "There is so much -- so much -- we still don’t know about concussions." The CTE "problem in football is real, and it is enormous." But it has also "led to facts-based hysteria." Pinning his suicide on the NFL" makes for a good headline" and may be a "winning legal strategy." But it is a "hard theory" to "buy in this case" (SI.com, 9/22).
TWITTER REAX: Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman wrote on Twitter, "This is some of worst news ever for NFL." The N.Y. Daily News' Shaun King: "Some headlines incorrectly say 'Lawyers for Aaron Hernandez say he had CTE.' The best researchers in the world found he had advanced CTE." The MMQB's Peter King: "News gets worse for football." Former NFLer Donte Stallworth: "Some of the world's leading experts made the diagnoses." The Toronto Star's Bruce Arthur: "Football is fun again, except for the Aaron Hernandez stuff."