“I drove up here from Cincinnati today. I’m reading through all these articles on my iPad. Man, I’m getting” angry, said Greg Scruggs, the Seattle Seahawks' second-year defensive end. “My man had everything. Everything. But he wanted to be about that life. It’s pointless. You got the world in your hands right now.”
“I will tell you guys this much,” said Ross Tucker, the panelist moderator who played seven years in the league, “the guy in the news, he got a $12.5 million signing bonus in August. Twelve-point-five million dollars — the most ever for a tight end. He’s 23 years old. It’s sad, man.”
While the league certainly wasn’t trying to highlight the Hernandez case, it also represented the exact type of situation that gets discussed annually at the rookie symposium. The NFL regularly schedules speakers who’ve encountered difficult situations to address its newest batch of players, in effect, to scare them straight.
On Thursday, players attended sessions that dealt with everything from discrimination to drugs to concussions. Terry “Tank” Johnson led a session Thursday afternoon called “The Risks are Real,” where he relayed his run-ins with the law and how firearms impacted his career. He told the league’s incoming rookies “you don’t need them,” and that guns bring problems to a budding NFL career.
“We don’t take guns as seriously as we need to. . . . You guys are going to realize this is a very stressful business — one of the most stressful businesses in the world,” Johnson said. “You don’t want to compound that stress by having a firearm there to help you make a bad decision. . . . [It’s] going to put you in a very tough position; it’s going to get you in trouble.
“If our man Aaron Hernandez never had that gun, this could be a different situation today. You guys understand that? This could be a fistfight; this could be an argument. Because he had that at his disposal, now he’s dealing with capital murder chargers.”
Note: A judge denied bail for Hernandez, who is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a friend. Hernandez’s lawyer argued that Hernandez is not a risk to flee and the case against him is circumstantial.
But a prosecutor said the evidence is “overwhelming.” A search of a Hummer belonging to Hernandez turned up an ammunition clip matching the caliber of casings found at the scene of the killing of Odin Lloyd, the prosecutor said.
Lloyd’s body was discovered by a jogger in a remote area of an industrial park not far from Hernandez’s home 10 days ago. He has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors called Lloyd’s killing an execution-style shooting orchestrated by Hernandez because his friend talked to the wrong people at a nightclub.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.