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NFL cautions against painting Aaron Hernandez as a victim

The concussion settlement might affect the Aaron Hernandez lawsuit against the NFL and Patriots, unless Hernandez opted out before his death.

The NFL didn’t have a response to the news of the Aaron Hernandez lawsuit against the league and the Patriots on Thursday. On Friday, the league definitely had one.

League spokesman Joe Lockhart, during a periodic media briefing, stressed that the news of Hernandez’s “severe” case of CTE should not result in Hernandez being treated as a victim.

“His personal story is complex, it doesn’t lend itself to simple answers,” Lockhart said. “He was convicted of a homicide and his well-documented behavioral issues began long before he played in the National Football League. . . . The real victims are the friends and family of those he killed, along with his young daughter.”

As to the status of the CTE phenomenon, Lockhart emphasized that more research is needed.

“It’s a very complicated puzzle,” he said. “Every piece is important. . . There are a lot of dots here, and science just hasn’t been able to connect them.”

As to the lawsuit filed by Hernandez, Lockhart was unequivocal and clear: “We intend to contest the claim vigorously.” However, Lockhart had no specifics regarding the strategy. The argument that the labor deal prevents any lawsuit surely will be made; before it gets to that point, however, the league may argue that Hernandez’s rights already have been determined by the settlement of the class action. The NFL doesn’t yet know whether Hernandez was part of the class, or whether he opted out of it.