Could the New England Patriots' decision to release Aaron Hernandez, who was arrested on murder charges on Wednesday, help Christian quarterback Tim Tebow's chances at getting on the field this season as a tight end?
Several sports writers seem to think it's a real possibility. The Patriots released 23-year-old Hernandez shortly after he was arrested. The team's offensive situation in this coming season is made even more uncertain by the fact that its star tight end, Rob Gronkowski, has undergone five surgeries in the last year, International Business Times reports, and it is unclear how his health issues will impact his effectiveness on the field.
"In three years as a pro, Tebow has never caught a pass," wrote IBT sports reporter Anthony Riccobono. "He does, however, seem to possess the tools to be a tight end. He has the size and athleticism necessary to play the position and was used by the New York Jets to block punts."
Riccobono also said Tebow can contribute more to the team by making a "handful of plays" as a tight end than he could by simply being the third-string quarterback behind proven starter Tom Brady and backup Ryan Mallett.
Orlando Sentinel writer George Diaz said in a blog post that Jake Ballard may be the Patriots' best tight end if Gronkowski is unable to play, which would be a "sharp decline" from the duo of Gronkowski and Hernandez. CBSSports.com writer Mike Freeman said via Twitter earlier this month that Tebow will "study a great deal at tight end," and Diaz believes it seems the popular Christian athlete may already be preparing to play the position.
"I've said this all along: Tebow's best shot at staying employed in the NFL is to give up the QB thing and switch positions," said Diaz. "Look for Tebow to be part of several packages, an H-Back deal, maybe some work at tight end, and a special teams slot."
But not everyone thinks the quarterback should be used at tight end. NFL.com "Around the League" writer Chris Wesseling says the Patriots should "forget about Tim Tebow" playing the position.
"He doesn't have the quick-twitch athleticism to excel as a 'move' tight end, a transition he would struggle to make at the NFL level in just a couple of months," wrote Wesseling.
New England announced the release of Hernandez on Wednesday shortly after he was arrested. He has been charged with the first-degree murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, reports ESPN, whom authorities said was shot several times in the back and chest.
Hernandez pleaded not guilty in Attleboro District Court in Massachusetts, and is being held without bail.
"A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss," the team said in a statement. "Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation. We realize that law enforcement investigations into this matter are ongoing. We support their efforts and respect the process. At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do."
Hernandez was drafted by the Patriots in 2010 from the University of Florida, where he and Tebow were teammates from 2007 to 2009.