FOXBORO, MA – OCTOBER 16: Marvin Lewis, head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, talks with Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots, after their game at Gillette Stadium on October 16, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots won the game. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

(SP) – While the New England Patriots have tried to distance themselves from Aaron Hernandez since the now-deceased player was accused of his first murder, the Cincinnati Bengals announced today that they will retire his number 81 “out of respect for his impressive accomplishments off the field.”

“It’s sad how many people have forgotten how good of a football player Aaron Hernandez was,” said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. “Everyone talks about all the murdering he did. But he also made tough catches across the middle and moved the chains. We are a football team, not a not-murdering-people team. Let’s focus on what’s important.”

Lewis said Hernandez’s accomplishments in the NFL are even more impressive considering all he was doing off the field.

“This is a guy who was one of the best at his position in football even though he was spending his days murdering and doing drugs,” said Lewis. “That’s the kind of example I want for our players in Cincinnati. A lot of our guys are involved in various criminal endeavors off the field, but on Sunday we expect them to produce. I don’t care that Hernandez, may he rest in peace, only played for the Patriots. He was a Bengal at heart.”

The Bengals say they have contacted Hernandez’s family to inquire about having the player’s ashes retire with the team.

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