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A dark cloud hovered over the Patriots as they officially opened their 2013 season, and not just the one that dumped a half-inch of rain on the area.
They finally got back to work after a dreary offseason mercifully concluded this week – one in which they saw Wes Welker, the heart and soul of the team, walk out the door in a squabble over a few dollars, and Aaron Hernandez walk out the door in handcuffs as he awaits trial on murder and gun charges.
The Patriots have dealt with controversy before, and have even thrived because of it – the 2007 perfect regular season was mostly fueled by the team’s “us against the world” mentality that derived after the “Spygate” fallout. Bill Belichick has proven time again that he is a master of motivation and has an uncanny ability to get his players to “block out the noise,” as Jerod Mayo said this week, and focus on the task at hand.
But the events of this offseason – which also included another arrest for cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, and three more surgeries for Rob Gronkowski – have left the Patriots in a collective funk that won’t be easy to get out from under. Particularly the Hernandez situation, which is unlike anything the Patriots and Belichick have ever dealt with.