Branch: Hernandez 'great friend'

Former New England Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch shared his thoughts on former teammate Aaron Hernandez in a recent interview, stressing that his greatest concern was justice being brought for the murder of Odin Lloyd, the victim of the crime with which Hernandez is charged.

"Aaron is a great guy and a great friend of mine and a great teammate," Branch told The Albany (Ga.) Herald in a story published Saturday. "I love him to death, and it was shocking to hear his name involved in this situation. I truly hope and pray he doesn't have any dealings with it."

Branch spoke to the newspaper after conducting his eighth annual Skills and Drills camp at Albany State in his hometown of Albany, Ga.

Branch, currently a free agent, was reacquired by the Patriots during the 2010 season (Hernandez's rookie year), after four-plus seasons in Seattle. He has been with the Patriots since that time, playing in 10 games last season and catching 16 passes.

"That's my guy, man," he added of Hernandez. "That's my guy. It really shocked me. He was a great kid. Overall, I hope the best that he isn't involved with it and I hope he gets his name cleared, but most importantly I send my prayers and condolences out to the Lloyd family."

Lloyd's funeral was held Saturday in Boston.

"Nobody deserves to walk, whoever the person is that did it," Branch said. "Most of all what we as Americans need to understand is that is somebody's child that was a victim. That's somebody's dad, and my prayers and thoughts go out to his family and hope that they bring whoever did this to their child to justice, regardless of who it is."

Hernandez has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail. Two other men are also in custody. Prosecutors say the three were in a car with Lloyd shortly before his death.

Branch's comments are in contrast to remarks made by former Patriots offensive tackle Matt Light last week.

In comments to the Dayton Daily News, Light, also a former teammate of Hernandez, said he "never embraced -- never believed in -- anything Aaron Hernandez stood for."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.