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Ray Lewis on Aaron Hernandez: ‘New England had to know something’

09.08.13 at 1:11 pm ET
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Ray Lewis weighed in on the Aaron Hernandez situation on Sunday. (AP)

Ray Lewis weighed in on the Aaron Hernandez situation on Sunday. (AP)

Newly retired Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis made quite the debut for ESPN on Sunday. During his first appearance on ESPN’s pregame show, Lewis weighed in on Aaron Hernandez and what he believes the Patriots should have known about their former tight end now accused of first-degree murder.

During a roundtable discussion with Cris Carter, Keyshawn Johnson and Tom Jackson, Lewis said the Patriots should have sensed that Hernandez, who remains in jail after pleading not guilty following him being arrested and charged with allegedly murdering Odin Lloyd, was headed down the wrong path.

“I want to make sure we clear something up because we have to do this for our brand of the National Football League: Our numbers are very small when it comes to the pain and the crime that happens in everyday America, the numbers of athletes that get in trouble,” Lewis said. “New England had to know something, just like 31 other teams had to know something about Aaron Hernandez’s background, and that’s your red flag. Now, it’s up to you to say, ‘You know what, I’m still going to try that.’”

Jackson then said someone with the Patriots should have had information about Hernandez’s activities from his high school and college days to sound alarm bells.

“Someone had to know this kid was heading toward incarceration,” Jackson said. “I think the mistake they made the thought was if we give him the money is it will help to straighten him out. But when they gave him the money, he only spiraled further out of control because he had the money.”

Patriots owner Robert Kraft, on hand in Orchard Park for the Patriots’ season opener, has said he and the organization were “duped” by Hernandez when they signed him to a $40 million contract extension before the 2012 season.

“They didn’t have to do a background check on me coming out of college,” Lewis said of the Ravens, who drafted him in 1996. “I was clean off the field.”

When asked by Carter if he had any character concerns coming out of the University of Miami, Lewis replied: “Absolutely not.”

Lewis pointed to late Ravens majority owner Art Modell when asked about being accused of a double murder in Atlanta following the Super Bowl in 2000. Those charges were later dismissed by prosecutors when he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice,.

“I think the biggest phone call I received after my mom’s phone call when I went through that was Art Modell,” Lewis said. “He’s dead and resting in peace now. That shows you the connection I had with my organization is they knew who I was as a man. They had been with me for five years at that point in my career. The thing that we should clear up and we’re athletes.

“Before we’re athletes, we’re human beings. The bottom line is we will find a way as human beings to make a mistake somewhere down the road. The biggest thing I had to change, and Keyshawn, you and me just spoke about this, was I had to change the people I was around because the people I was around wasn’t thinking the way I was thinking, they weren’t training the way I was training, they wasn’t doing the things that would take me to where I needed to go. They were actually making me regress and make me go backwards.”

When asked by Johnson, Lewis credited the guidance of former Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe, one of his closest friends and mentors.

“You know what, my change only came when I found myself in that situation,” Lewis said. “What happens with people like us is your heart steps in the way most of the time. You always want to help where you came from, but you can’t help. Shannon Sharpe, the No. 1 thing is he said, ‘Now, you have a different opportunity to start over. The only way to start over is to change the people you’re around.’ That right there, changed my whole perspective.”

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Art Modell, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills
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