Sports Illustrated legal expert Michael McCann joined Dennis & Callahan Friday morning to discuss a possible civil suit the Patriots could face as a result of the Aaron Hernandez murder case. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Sports Illustrated legal expert Michael McCann joined Dennis & Callahan Friday morning to discuss a possible civil suit the Patriots could face as a result of the Aaron Hernandez murder case. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Michael McCann

Michael McCann

The Patriots have been named co-defendants in a civil wrongful death lawsuit against Hernandez. The lawyer representing families of two Dorchester men allegedly gunned down by the former tight end is seeking a court order to prevent the team from paying $3.25 million contract bonus he is owed.

“They’re usually successful against the defendant himself. They’re less successful against the employer, and that’s because the legal relationship of the employer of the defendant and the victim is often very tenuous,” McCann said. “And I think that’s true here, where the Patriots really don’t have any legal relationship to the alleged victims of Hernandez, where Hernandez clearly does have a relationship with those victims.”

The Patriots terminated Hernandez’s contract following his arrest for Odin Lloyd‘s murder last year, but the NFL Players Association has filed a grievance for Hernandez’s $3.25 million in signing bonus money he says he is owed.

McCann said the victim’s families want the money the Patriots may owe Hernandez depending on the result of the independent NFL grievance process.

“In terms of the legal theory it’s pretty weak that the Patriots have any obligation to these families, and that’s because Hernandez wasn’t acting within the scope of his employment with the Patriots when these murders happened,” McCann said. “Assuming for a minute that he’s guilty, what relationship did the Patriots have when he did it? It wasn’t happening as a New England Patriot; it wasn’t happening during work hours; it didn’t occur at Gillette Stadium, there was no team function.

“It seems like a pretty weak argument between the Patriots and these victims who they have no legal duty to protect. So I think it’s going to be hard to argue that the Patriots have any legal relationship.”

McCann said the families may argue that there were prior concerns about Hernandez before the Patriots drafted him.

“The problem there is multi-fold,” he said. “One is Hernandez had no criminal history that we know of prior to the Patriots. There were rumors that he had some connection to a gang, but those are rumors, and it’s often difficult to get juvenile records to the extent that there are records that implicate Hernandez.

“The Patriots could argue, even if there were questions about his character, that isn’t alone a reason not to employ him. And we don’t know if he violated team rules or anything like that when he played for the Patriots. He seemed to have been, from what we could tell, a productive player who played hurt. Maybe not the best person on earth, that seems clear, but I don’t think there were really warning signs that he was a murderer. That seems like a stretch.”

In terms of Hernandez’s murder case itself, McCann said Hernandez’s lawyers could try to use an insanity defense for Hernandez given his history of concussions in his playing career. However, McCann said doesn’t see it being a successful argument.

“There is a possibility that they could argue that he had diminished capacity, maybe because of concussions or some other head injury, that it was difficult for him to plan out or intend to murder, so therefore first-degree murder isn’t appropriate,” McCann said. “Maybe second-degree is appropriate. And maybe there are medical records showing that he was easily distracted or wasn’t able to focus or that injuries playing in the NFL, sub-concussive hits, caused him to act this way.

“To me, those are a stretch. I have a hard time seeing a neurologist or neurosurgeon testify to say, because he played in the NFL and he may have taken some hits, he therefore became a multiple-time murderer. That seems like a big leap in plausibility to me.”

Another NFL story McCann touched on was the Redskins having their trademark canceled by the U.S. Patent Office on Wednesday. The team has the right to appeal the ruling to a federal court, like it did when it had its trademark canceled in 1999 — the ruling was overturned in 2003. That means it could take years for the most recent decision to have an impact on the team.

“For a while, there will be no affect,” McCann said. “Beyond an appeal, let’s say there’s an appeal and it fails, the Redskins would then have to make a choice whether to keep the team name in the absence of federal trademark protection.

“But it isn’t quite as sweeping as is being reported, in my view, by some in the media because, first of all, even under federal law they would still have some protection. They could still claim they have an exclusive right to the team name. It just wouldn’t have the same legal presumptions. But then beyond that they also have state law protections and protections from court decisions that could help them protect their team name and go after counterfeit companies.”

Blog Author: 
Nick Canelas
Darrelle Revis had long sleeves and long pants on throughout the spring workouts, no matter the temperature. (AP)

Darrelle Revis had long sleeves and long pants on throughout the spring workouts, no matter the temperature. (AP)

1. Darrelle Revis was pretty much instantly identifiable whenever he stepped on the field this spring for a few reasons, not the least of which was the fact that — no matter the weather — he was always dressed in long sleeves and long sweatpants. Not only that, he was layered, even though things were pretty hot and steamy on two of the three days of mandatory minicamp. He was asked why he wore so many clothes throughout his workouts, and he smiled and said he’s always been about the long sleeves.

“Always, man,” he said. “It’s just learning from the old guys when I was younger, man. The Ty Laws. The David Barretts. Guys that I used to look up to. Then you asked them the question, you come out in shorts and a T-shirt. They’re dressed in long sleeves and sweat jackets and you’re like ‘Why you wearing that?’ All DBs say you’ve got to stay warm, because we run a lot. That’s the answer. We’ve got to stay warm. I always try to stay covered, man.

“And I don’t want to get a tan, either.”

For what it’s worth, Revis acknowledged he wasn’t on the field at the end of practice on Wednesday. Asked if there was any cause for concern, he seemed to suggested there wasn’t a problem.

“No [cause for concern]. I’m fine. I’ll leave the injury report up to Bill,” he said. “Whatever he says, he says. But I’m fine. I was here today and I practiced today.”

Two more notes about the defensive backs: One, the last two years, they were a very happy-go-lucky group, with Aqib Talib serving as a good time ringleader, and veteran Marquice Cole always managing to keep things light. It’s still early (and things could change once we get a chance to see them interact on a daily basis together in the locker room), but this year’s group appears to be much more businesslike than the last couple of seasons. In their initial meetings with the media — Thursday’s joke from Revis about tanning aside — there’s a different tone about this group this time around. And two, when it comes to the rest of the secondary, the job of the safety position opposite Devin McCourty is Duron Harmon‘s to lose, with Tavon Wlson and Patrick Chung behind him.

2. With Aaron Dobson still on the shelf because of a foot issue and Brandon LaFell in and out of the lineup, fellow wideout Kenbrell Thompkins did a nice job of taking advantage of the opportunities that were afforded him this spring, at least from this viewpoint. The receiver, entering his second season in New England, got extensive work with the starting offense, and had perhaps the sweetest offensive play of minicamp relatively early in Wednesday’s session. In 11-on-11 work, he and quarterback Tom Brady connected on a pass play in the corner of the end zone. The ball was lofted over the outstretched arms of cornerback Brandon Browner, floated out there by the quarterback to a spot where only Thompkins could catch it. The receiver came down the with ball, much to the delight of the rest of the offense.

‘€œThat was very challenging,” Thompkins said when asked about the play after practice. “Brandon Browner is a tremendous athlete — [a] lengthy guy, long arms. But it’€™s our job to come down with it.’€

From this viewpoint — if history is any indication — Thompkins is still a candidate for the roster bubble. But in the series of workouts that were open to the media, he certainly made an impressive statement, and likely solidified his spot on the roster as a result.

3. Dobson and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard were not on the field for the spring workouts, with Dennard continuing to work his way back after offseason shoulder surgery. Neither are rookies, and so their experience in the system will help them when it comes to hitting the ground running in July when training camp opens. But following the spring practice sessions, it’s clear that both will be pushed when it comes to battling for playing time this summer. Dobson, Thompkins and LaFell will fight for snaps when it comes to working as the outside receiver.

Meanwhile, Dennard is no longer the consensus No. 2 corner in the system, a spot he occupied for the bulk of the 2013 season opposite Talib. The Patriots picked up Revis and Browner in the offseason, and while Kyle Arrington is better suited to working in the slot (and figures to be tops on the depth chart if you’re talking about a possible nickel/slot corner), Dennard could challenge him for time in that role. But at this point, Dennard and second-year man Logan Ryan figure to start training camp as the backup corners. That can all change in the blink of an eye, of course — and the fact that Browner has to sit out the first four games of the season because of a PED violation from last year will mean Dennard could still open the year as the starter opposite Revis. But Dennard can’t afford to slip up or miss any more time this summer.

4. It was different to gauge the work of either side of the line — with no pads in either the OTAs or minicamp sessions, trying to get a handle on the state of the offensive or defensive line is a dicey proposition. But on the offensive side of the ball, rookie Jon Halapio stood out as a first-year player who appeared to get plenty of reps with what looked like a reasonable facsimile of the No. 1 offense. In drills like this at this time of year, one of the main things you’re looking for is for a rookie not to look overwhelmed by his surroundings, and Halapio appeared to fit well with the rest of the starters. We’ll know more about how he’ll hold up at the NFL level when the pads go on in July, but to this point, he’s done well. One other note as it relates to the offensive line: center Bryan Stork took a lot of laps (at least three, by our count) after botched snaps. From that perspective, the Florida State product and Rimington Award winner had a rough spring.

On the other side of the ball, first-round pick Dominique Easley saw his first action (at least in front of the media) at Thursday’s minicamp session in the practice bubble. He appeared limited, but at the same time, he was able to make a series of nice cuts and bursts in drills alongside his veteran counterparts. It’s very early, but just seeing him on the field at this stage of the spring after last year’s torn ACL is enough to spark some optimism he’ll be ready for camp, at least on a limited basis.

“He’s working. He’s working just like I am — stacking days,” veteran defensive lineman Tommy Kelly said of Easley on Wednesday. “He’ll be all right. He’s a very hard worker. When he gets out here, I’ll be just as excited as you all.”

5. The depth at linebacker isn’t ideal, but James Anderson should definitely help. The veteran who had 102 tackles last season with the Bears got some good work in over minicamp alongside Dont’a Hightower, and will likely be the first choice to fill the void of pure coverage linebacker the team has lacked the last couple of years. The guys who lead the depth chart at linebacker are an impressive group, as Jerod Mayo appears to be close to being all the way back after last year’s season-ending pectoral injury, and Hightower and Jamie Collins appear poised to be every-down linebackers in 2014. Beyond that, however, there are still questions. There’s still time between now and the start of the regular-season to build depth, but at this point, if any one of the starters goes down for an extended length of time like last year, they could have issues.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

FOXBORO -- Darrelle Revis and Bill Belichick weren’t always pals.



The Patriots released wide receiver Reggie Dunn Thursday.

Dunn, 25, was originally signed by Pittsburgh as a rookie free agent on April 7, 2013, out of Utah. The 5-foot-9, 178-pounder was released by the Steelers after training camp and spent time on the practice squads of Green Bay, Cleveland and Miami in 2013 before joining the New England practice squad on Jan. 7.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Rex Ryan said Thursday the idea that the Patriots had gotten their hands on a Jets playbook was “ridiculous.”

Rex Ryan said a story that intimated the Patriots got their hands on a Jets playbook is "ridiculous." (AP)

Rex Ryan said a story that intimated the Patriots got their hands on a Jets playbook is “ridiculous.” (AP)

Rex Ryan said Thursday the idea that the Patriots had gotten their hands on a Jets playbook was “ridiculous.”

The Jets coach was responding to a story in Monday Morning Quarterback where former New York assistant Mike Pettine said that during Wes Welker‘s 2012 wedding, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had bragged to former Jets assistant Mike Smith — Welker’s college roommate — that New England “may or may not have had possession of a couple Jets defensive playbooks.”

That charge didn’t sit with with Ryan.

“No. 1, I think it’s disrespectful to New England to sit back and say that they did this,” the Jets coach said. “‘Because I can tell you, every single game that we’ve ever had with New England has been decided on the field. Nobody’s had a competitive advantage. And that’s a fact. So all that type of stuff, is ridiculous.”

Pettine said that Ryan — who “would give [Jets playbooks] out like candy,” according to Pettine — gave one to Alabama coach Nick Saban, a close friend of Belichick. Pettine told Ryan, “Don’t you know Saban and Bill are pretty good friends? I have a feeling it’s going to end up in New England.’”

However, Ryan wasn’t having any of it on Thursday.

“Every single game’s different. So when you go into my room … you’ll see every one of those playbooks. And if you flip [through] them, they’re a lot different each week. And it’s always gameplan-specific. So, to me, it’s ridiculous.

“But it sounds like everybody needs to talk to Pettine because apparently he’s got all the information,” he added.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

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FOXBORO — All is forgiven, if not forgotten, when it comes to Vince Wilfork and the Patriots.

The perennial Pro Bowl nose tackle spoke Thursday after the conclusion of minicamp for the first time since re-working his contract to return to New England.


FOXBORO — All is forgiven, if not forgotten, when it comes to Vince Wilfork and the Patriots.

The perennial Pro Bowl nose tackle spoke Thursday after the conclusion of minicamp for the first time since re-working his contract to return to New England.

Wilfork tore his right Achilles last September in Atlanta and was lost for the rest of the season.

Wilfork returned to Gillette Stadium to be around the team during his rehab but that loyalty didn’t immediately earn him the benefit of the doubt with the organization.

According to multiple reports, he felt slighted by the team and asked to be traded, going as far as removing his nameplate from his locker inside the Patriots locker room.

But after agreeing to a complicated, incentive-laden $23 million, three-year extension ($4 million signing bonus) in late March, Wilfork began the process of moving on. A big step in that process came this week when he stepped on the field for minicamp practices on Tuesday. On Thursday, he spoke for the first time about his return, making it clear that business is business and he’s all about football going forward.

“I’€™m here. That’€™s a dead issue,” Wilfork said. “I’€™m here for a reason. If I didn’€™t believe in the things that were brought to me, I wouldn’€™t have signed it. I’€™m here. There’€™s a reason that I’€™m here. I’€™m not upset. I’€™m not holding no type of grudge. Business is business. Everybody handles business different ways.

“But in my career, I think the right thing was for me to be up here with my family and my teammates and a staff that I’€™ve been around for so long, the organization that I know. It was just a smart decision for me and my family to be here. But if we think that it wouldn’€™t work, I wouldn’€™t be here. It’€™s a positive thing that I’€™m here. There’€™s no grudges. That’€™s something that happened a while ago. It’€™s the first time I’€™ve actually talked about it, but it’€™s a non-issue.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — Here we go again.

In the latest edition of Monday Morning Quarterback on SI.com, columnist Greg Bedard reports that new Browns head coach and former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine believes that old copies of the Jets playbook, circa 2011, may have wound up in the hands of the Patriots.