Column: Hernandez shows perils of hero worship

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Criticize them for signing Hernandez in the first place, sure, but within 90 minutes of his arrest, they cut him despite knowing they’d have to take a hit on the salary cap. His locker was quickly cleaned out, and they further washed their hands of him with the jersey trade-in weekend at Gillette Stadium.

“What we’ve generally seen in the past when athletes run afoul with the law, teams generally stick with their stars especially through the legal process like the Ravens did with Ray Lewis,” said Ramsey Poston, a crisis communication expert who heads Tuckahoe Strategies, a public relations firm in Denton, Md. “This is a very different move, one that suggests to me that the organization takes its reputation very seriously.”

The Patriots should have quit there, but Kraft talked to a select group of media on Monday and said Hernandez seemed like a nice enough guy. Respectful, likable, he even gave Kraft a check for his late wife’s charity after signing a new contract.

Maybe Kraft didn’t read the psychological review, though it hardly matters. Because in football _ in all sports, really _ the urge to win trumps everything and teams with the most talented players win more than others.

It’s why baseball teams reward known steroid users with fat new contracts, and why players such as Pacman Jones keep getting chances in the NFL. Indeed, Hernandez was a winner on the field, helping the Patriots get to their last Super Bowl, where he caught a touchdown pass and led the team in receiving yards.

Sometimes, though, there’s a price to pay for putting winning ahead of everything.

Fans, meanwhile, probably won’t give it a second thought except to ponder who the Patriots might find to replace Hernandez. Not their fault he was drafted by the team, certainly not their fault he was charged with murder.

Besides, when it comes to hero worship, there’s always another player.

And, of course, another jersey to be had.

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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