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Branch calls Hernandez a “friend,” finds allegations “shocking”


It’s now fashionable to dump on accused murderer Aaron Hernandez, and for good reason. He allegedly killed one man, and he may have killed two others.

Former teammate Deion Branch has opted for a different path.

“Aaron is a great guy and a great friend of mine and a great teammate,” Branch told the Albany Herald at his eighth annual Skills and Drills Camp at Albany State University, via Tom Curran of CSN New England. “I love him to death, and it was shocking to hear his name involved in this situation. I truly hope and pray he doesn’t have any dealings with it.”

It’s looking less likely all the time that Branch’s hopes and prayers will be answered. Still, he’s demonstrating a degree of loyalty that is uncommon in cases like this.

“That’s my guy, man,” Branch said regarding Hernandez. “That’s my guy. It really shocked me. He was a great kid. Overall, I hope the best that he isn’t involved with it and I hope he gets his name cleared, but most importantly I send my prayers and condolences out to the Lloyd family.”

Hernandez may be acquitted but his name will never be cleared. More importantly, Odin Lloyd will never be going home, and Branch is sensitive to that.

“Nobody deserves to walk, whoever the person is that did it,” Branch said. “Most of all what we as Americans need to understand is that is somebody’s child that was a victim. . . . [M]y prayers and thoughts go out to his family and hope that they bring whoever did this to their child to justice, regardless of who it is.”

Branch easily could have kept his mouth shut or offered a lukewarm-at-best assessment of a guy who may never get out of prison. Branch’s words nevertheless reflect a certain amount of naivete.

Lloyd was shot and killed in a quiet New England town in the wee hours of a Monday morning. Minutes later, Hernandez’s own surveillance system showed a car pull in and Hernandez get out.

Carrying a gun.

And the car, a rental, contained a shell casing that matched the shell casings found at the scene.

Maybe there’s an explanation that allows Hernandez escape direct or indirect responsibility for Lloyd’s death. Eventually, his lawyers will have a chance to create reasonable doubt in the minds of 12 jurors. For now, any suggestion that Hernandez wasn’t at least involved seems foolish, to say the least.

But it’s hard to fault Branch for being loyal. Maybe at some point he’ll cut and run on Hernandez. For now, Branch isn’t willing to wash his hands of Hernandez. Naive or not, we should all be lucky enough to have a friend who is inclined at least initially to cling to the good, no matter how troubling the bad looks.