In 2012, Chris Simms was a coaching assistant for the New England Patriots.
“I was the self-proclaimed ‘bitch boy’ . . . the year I was there,” Simms said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “(It) was (my) first year in the building. I literally was the lowest man on the totem pole.”
Simms, now an NFL analyst for Bleacher Report, did a lot of grunt work that year, especially for his boss, former tight ends coach George Godsey, now the Texans’ offensive coordinator. Simms spent a lot of time in the tight ends room with Godsey and, yes, Aaron Hernandez.
“I’ll say this,” Simms said. “Yesterday was somewhat of a life lesson for me because Aaron Hernandez was a player that was very polarizing in the locker room. I think he was maybe the most well-liked guy on that New England Patriots football team. Extremely charismatic, the coaches loved him, the players loved him – he really was one of my favorites. He was super-talented – one of the most talented players I was ever around, really – and he was an ultra-hard worker.”
He’ll never play football again.
On Wednesday, a Massachusetts jury found Hernandez guilty of first-degree murder in the the 2013 death of Odin Lloyd. Hernandez was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
“He just could not get out of (that) element of his life (with the) gang background and everything like that,” Simms said. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen the results and he won’t be out of jail ever again.”
Simms, who played with Brandon Marshall in Denver, was no stranger to mercurial athletes.
“I knew that he was bi-polar even before I think he knew he was bi-polar,” Simms said of Marshall, “and I almost look at Aaron Hernandez a little bit the same way. Brandon Marshall and Aaron Hernandez – and I don’t want to compare Brandon Marshall to Aaron Hernandez, I don’t mean to do that – but very charismatic people. Six days a week, you’d walk in the locker room, and Aaron Hernandez had a great smile and he was the most charismatic guy in the locker room. But there was that one day every now and then where you said, ‘I’m not going to approach him today. He doesn’t look like he’s in a good mood.’ I guess that was somewhat of his darker side.
“But no, I don’t think he had people fooled,” Simms continued. “I will say my year there, I knew they were concerned again because they knew some of the bad element had creeped back into his life since he had signed his new contract. So there were concerns within the Patriot organization.”
Moving to the field, Simms was asked several questions about the upcoming NFL Draft, including whether we’ll see a running back taken in the first round. Using an early pick on a running back is very 2008 – five running backs were taken in the first round that year – but a handful of teams need a workhorse and there are several top-tier guys in this year’s class, including Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley.
“Melvin Gordon, in my opinion, is the best running back in the draft,” Simms said. “Of course, we know about the devaluation of the running back position, but I think he is the best player. Both he and Todd Gurley are worthy of a first-round pick, but Gurley, coming off an ACL injury, I would think somebody’s crazy if they pick Gurley in the first round. I don’t know why you would risk it, especially (in) this day and age (and) when this (draft’s) running back class is so deep. Running backs are growing on trees.”
Simms believes that San Diego (17th overall pick), Baltimore (26) and Dallas (27) could all be in the market for a running back, with Gordon being the first one off the board.
“He’s a talented man,” Simms said. “Unbelievable feet in the hole, the vision is phenomenal – that’s where I think he’s got a definite edge over a Gurley right now.”