Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hernandez's ex-coach denies drug reports

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Urban Meyer defended his treatment of Aaron Hernandez, telling the Gainesville Sun it was "irresponsible" to blame him or Florida for Hernandez's legal problems.

Since investigators first began looking into Hernandez's connection to the murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, the former Florida Gator has been linked to a pair of violent incidents in Gainesville while he was a member of Meyer's team.

Meyer, now at Ohio State, has previously declined to comment about Hernandez, but he told the Sun's Pat Dooley on Saturday he wanted to clear the air before going on vacation.

Hernandez was among the former Gators questioned in connection with a 2007 shooting Gainesville police have classified as an open attempted homicide. Hernandez matched the description of a man accused of firing the bullets that hit the driver in the head and a passenger in the arm, according to a police report obtained by the Orlando Sentinel. Less than 20 hours after giving the statement, one of the witnesses withdrew his identification of Hernandez as the trigger man, according to the report.

When Meyer was asked about the incident, he told the Sun an assistant coach informed him the players were questioned as witnesses and, "I didn't think about it again until a couple of days ago."

Meyer also was concerned about reports Hernandez failed multiple drug tests while competing at Florida rather than the just one Hernandez confirmed shortly after he was drafted by the New England Patriots.

"I just received an email from a friend where there is an accusation of multiple failed drug tests covered up by the Univ. of Florida or the coaching staff," Meyer wrote in a text message to the Sun. "This is absolutely not true. Hernandez was held to the same drug testing policy as every other player.

"He was an athlete at Florida 4-to-7 years ago and there are some comments being made that are not correct. Our staff, myself and our families worked very hard to mentor and guide him. Prayers and thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim. Relating or blaming these serious charges to Univ. of Florida, myself or our staff is wrong and irresponsible."

Meyer did not address Hernandez's involvement in a violent altercation with a bouncer at The Swamp Restaurant in 2007. Hernandez, then 17, refused to pay for two alcoholic beverages and got into a confrontation with a bouncer over the bill, according to a Gainesville police report obtained by the Orlando Sentinel. Fellow Gator Tim Tebow tried to prevent the fight from escalating, but Hernandez punched the bouncer and broke his ear drum, according to the report.

Three hours after the fight, Hernandez and Tebow told an officer they had informed Meyer about the incident, according to the report.

-- Orlando Sentinel

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 7, 2013 B5

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