HARTFORD (CBS Connecticut/AP) — Could Tim Tebow be the next starting tight end for the New England Patriots?
With the statuses of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski up in the air, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick might have no other choice but to give Tebow a shot.
Moving Tebow to tight end is not so far-fetched. CBSSports.com NFL insider Mike Freeman reported shortly before the Patriots signed the former Heisman-winning quarterback earlier this month that Tebow might learn a new position.
“Plan, I’m told, is Tebow will study a great deal at tight end,” Freeman tweeted on June 10.
Freeman followed up on Twitter the next day: “And to reiterate what I’ve been told, Tebow will not be QB ONLY.”
The Patriots tight end situation is currently murky as Hernandez, who is also a former teammate with Tebow at the University of Florida, is involved in a murder investigation and Gronkowski is coming off both forearm and back surgery. There is no timetable for Gronkowski’s return after having back surgery on Tuesday, his fourth surgical procedure this year. He’s had three others on his forearm.
Multiple outlets reported Wednesday that Gronkowski will be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list for the preseason.
The situation is more dire for Hernandez, though. The state medical examiner identified the man a mile from Hernandez’s home as 27-year-old Odin Lloyd and ruled he was a homicide victim, Bristol District Attorney Samuel Sutter’s office said. Lloyd’s family said he was a semi-pro football player with a connection to Hernandez, whose home was searched by police.
Lloyd’s mother, Ursula Ward, had said earlier police had told her the body was that of her son, who played for the Boston Bandits.
“My son is a wonderful child,” she said, crying as she spoke outside the family’s home in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. “He’s a family guy. He hasn’t done anything to hurt anyone.”
Ward would not say how Lloyd knew Hernandez and did not say if police told her how her son died. An uncle said Lloyd had a connection to Hernandez but wouldn’t elaborate.
State police returned for the second day Wednesday to Hernandez’s sprawling home in an upscale subdivision in North Attleborough, on the Rhode Island state line not far from the Patriots’ stadium in Foxborough. They referred questions about their investigation to Sutter, the district attorney.
Sutter’s office said investigators were asking for the public’s help to find a silver mirror cover believed to have broken off a car between Boston and North Attleborough.
Hernandez attorney Michael Fee acknowledged media reports about the state police search of Hernandez’s home as part of an investigation but said he and the player wouldn’t have any comment on it. WBZ-TV reports Hernandez has not been cooperating with authorities during the investigation and has not been ruled out a suspect.
Two troopers knocked on the door of Hernandez’s house Wednesday morning, but no one answered. The night before, police spent hours there as another group of officers searched the industrial park.
Later Wednesday, at least seven state troopers searched both sides of a road just off the street where Hernandez lives. The officers used thin poles to pull back plants and search through undergrowth along the road.
Hernandez returned home during the early afternoon Wednesday. He did not speak to a crowd of reporters staked out about 100 feet away.
The Patriots drafted Hernandez out of Florida in 2010. Since then, he has combined with Gronkowski to form one of the top tight end duos in the NFL. He missed 10 games last season with an ankle injury and had shoulder surgery in April but is expected to be ready for training camp. Last summer, the Patriots gave him a five-year contract worth $40 million.
Patriots spokesman Stacey James said the team did not anticipate commenting publicly during the police investigation.
Sports Illustrated reported that the link between Hernandez and the case was a rented Chevrolet Suburban with Rhode Island plates that police had been searching for. The Associated Press could not independently confirm the report.
Lloyd’s neighbor Larry Connors said a black Suburban with Rhode Island license plates was towed out of the yard of Lloyd’s house after his body was found. Lloyd had been driving it for a few days, but Connors had never seen it before that.
Neighbor Paul Sandefur, a retired transit police officer, said he had known Lloyd since he was in diapers and was at a loss to explain what might have led to his death.
“He’d tease me about coming over to play basketball because I used to tell all the kids I could beat them,” Sandefur said. “He was an exceptional kid. It’s just inconceivable that something would happen to him.”
Both neighbors thought Lloyd worked in construction, and neither knew of any connection between him and Hernandez.
Bandits coach Olivier Bustin, who last saw Lloyd on Saturday at a team scrimmage and heard on Tuesday he had been killed, said he never knew him to be in trouble.
“He was a personable guy, just a guy who was well-liked by everybody on the team,” said the coach, who said Lloyd didn’t start but played a big role on defense.
Lloyd’s sister, Olivia Thibou, said her brother always had her back.
“And, you know, it’s just tough that he’s not here,” she said. “As my mom said, just give us our time to grieve. And I hope that they find out who did it.”
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