- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Thirteen years ago, future Hall of Famer and recently retired Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was charged with two counts of murder. This is the closest NFL case to what Hernandez is going through. The former Patriots tight end faces one murder charge and five additional gun charges.
Billick brought up an astute point that the Ravens’ organization emphatically stood behind Lewis throughout the entire legal process, while the Patriots immediately dumped Hernandez on Wednesday. According to Billick, the Ravens had confidence in the Lewis' character. Lewis beat both murder charges and pleaded to a lesser charge of obstruction of justice.
“We had a great deal of faith in Ray Lewis,” Billick said on the NFL Network. “We didn’t know the circumstances more than anybody else. We had to live through that over the subsequent three or four months, but we knew Ray Lewis and the type of person that he was.
“For the New England Patriots, this is a decision that was made [early]. They didn’t wake up this morning (Wednesday) and decide this is what we’re going to do.”
Billick continued by saying cutting Hernandez showed "a lack of faith in the individual." New England knew ahead of time that Hernandez had various issues at the University of Florida, which is why the talented tight end fell to the fourth round.
But after just two seasons with the Patriots, they showed plenty of faith in Hernandez last summer. That's when New England offered Hernandez a five year, $40 million extension when he still had two seasons left on his rookie contract. That decision proved costly for New England, who must absorb a significant salary-cap hit over the next two years following Hernandez's release.
Guilt or innocence hasn't been determined for Hernandez, and New England could have stood by him over the next few months the same way Baltimore stood behind Lewis. But I think Billick is absolutely correct: The Patriots didn’t have enough confidence in Hernandez's character -- and these charges were enough to convince the team to cut bait.