FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tim Tebow offered no revealing insights into the drama surrounding Aaron Hernandez, his former teammate with the Florida Gators and, briefly, the New England Patriots who is now facing first-degree murder charges.
But after completing his first training camp practice with the Patriots on Friday, Tebow acknowledged the tragedy of the execution-style shooting of Odin Lloyd, an acquaintance of Hernandez. Then Tebow demonstrated his ability to recite his new company's line.
"It was heartbreaking, it was sad," Tebow said in his first public comments about the murder. "And we've been advised not to comment on an ongoing legal investigation. So I'm not going to comment further. But it's just heartbreaking and sad. All my prayers go out to the families that were involved."
Tebow played with Hernandez at Florida, where they won a national championship together in 2008. Tebow spoke to more than two dozen reporters for about eight minutes. But when pressed about Hernandez, he repeatedly deflected the questions."I understand why you have to ask all the questions," he responded to a query from NFL Network's Albert Breer. "That's part of doing your job. Mine is listening to instructions. We've been told not to talk about it."
Tebow attempted to keep Hernandez out of trouble during a 2007 bar squabble while both were playing at Florida, but not even the mild-mannered quarterback could keep the hot-headed tight end from slugging a Gainesville, Fla., restaurant manager and puncturing his ear drum.
Still, after Tebow's efforts failed, it appears the school or football program might have gotten Hernandez off the hook by reaching a settlement with the manager to keep him from pursuing charges, according to a supplemental investigation report on the altercation obtained by USA TODAY Sports.
Hernandez, a 17-year-old freshman at the time who had not even played a down for the Gators, got into an argument over an unpaid tab for two drinks, according to an incident report obtained by USA TODAY Sports. Hernandez was not of legal drinking age.
The report said a waitress at The Swamp Restaurant brought Hernandez the drinks, which he consumed before refusing to pay the bill. Manager Michael Taphorn confronted Hernandez, then asked him to leave. Outside the bar, Hernandez told police that Taphorn got into his face. When Taphorn turned to re-enter the bar, police said Hernandez hit him on the side of the head.
According to the report, Hernandez did not deny throwing the punch.
When police responded and couldn't locate Hernandez, Tebow told them he had urged Hernandez to leave peacefully and tried to make arrangements to pay the bill. Later, when police interviewed Hernandez, Tebow was present.
Police said Taphorn was adamant about pressing charges when he first spoke to officers, but when police followed up with him, he told them "that he may request the charges be dropped," an investigator wrote in the supplemental report.
He added: "Taphorn did state that he had been contacted by legal staff and coaches with UF and that they may be working on an agreement."
Taphorn never pursued a criminal action, police said.
Tebow did answer a question Friday to defend the reputation of Urban Meyer, maintaining that this former college coach did not run an outlaw program at Florida.
"I feel like Urban Meyer is a great man, one of the best that I've had to the privilege of being around," Tebow said.
"He's someone who not only tries to win football games, he's someone who tries to invest in young men's lives and help young men grow. He cares very deeply about that. That's one of the reasons why I'm so close to him, and I'm proud of him."
Contributing: USA TODAY Sports' Kevin Manahan