NFL news roundup: Aaron Hernandez denies gang affiliation, J.J. Watt the best defensive player ever?

Bob Levey

Tuesday's NFL roundup has more on Aaron Hernandez, of course, as well some lofty praise from Brian Cushing on teammate J.J. Watt. Also inside: Jay-Z's response to an NFLPA investigation and Tavon Austin puts himself in hot water over his Twitter account.

Aaron Hernandez denied any gang affiliation when questioned by Bristol County corrections officers, the Boston Herald reports. Gang investigators inspected Hernandez's tattoos for any symbols related to gang activity that could cause problems with gang-affiliated inmates. Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson told the Herald that "we don't have any definite issues at this point, but we're still being very cautious."

Hernandez is currently being held without bail on first degree murder chargers after the body of Odin Lloyd was found near the tight end's home last week. So far, Hernandez has reportedly been a model inmate.

"He's been very polite, very respectful. He doesn't seem nervous, which is 
unusual for someone who's never been incarcerated before," [Hodgson] said. "He now has three hours out of his cell each day. That's an hour outside, by himself, an hour to shower and make phone calls, and another hour to see visitors."

Hernandez's next court date is tentatively set for July 24.

Brian Cushing: J.J. Watt could be "the greatest defensive player ever"

Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing had incredibly high praise for teammate J.J. Watt. Speaking with ESPN's John Clayton, Cushing didn't hold back:

"The things that he's going to be able to accomplish are unbelievable," Cushing told ESPN.com's John Clayton last week in his "Inside The Huddle" podcast. "When you talk about the potential that he has of really being the greatest defensive player ever, he could be. I know that's very premature but he's that kind of player.

"I think if he just keeps doing what he's doing and obviously stays healthy, he's on that track."

Watt is coming off one of the best seasons ever by an NFL defensive player. He racked up 81 tackles and 20.5 sacks, but perhaps more impressively he broke up 16 passes to earn the nickname J.J. "Swatt."

Jay-Z responds to NFLPA investigation on new album

Jay-Z is revealing the lyrics to his new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, and one of the lines addresses the NFL directly in response to the NFLPA's investigation into the recruitment of New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith to Jay-Z's Roc Nation entertainment company.

"NFL investigations/ Oh don't make me laugh /FBI investigation /We stood up to that"

Jay-Z may have violated the NFLPA's "runner rule" which forbids non-certified sports agents from steering players towards representation when he met with Smith before the quarterback signed with Roc Nation and agent Kim Miale.

Arizona Cardinals donate $100k to families of firefighters

The Arizona Cardinals donated $100,000 to the families of 19 firefighters who died while combating a wildfire 80 miles outside of Phoenix. The money will go to the 100 Club, an organization dedicated to providing financial relief to the families of firefighters. Cardinals president Michael Bidwill released a statement with the donation. Via Pro Football Talk:

"Our hearts go out to all of those affected by the devastating and tragic events this week, especially the families of the 19 brave members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots who lost their lives serving our community," Cardinals president Michael Bidwill said. "Our team is proud to assist the ongoing efforts and encourage our fans, the community and Arizona businesses to support these relief initiatives."

St. Louis Rams unhappy with Tavon Austin's Twitter account

Tavon Austin apparently got himself into some hot water with the St. Louis Rams by following some people on Twitter who the team deemed unsavory:

The rookie wide receiver is apparently still retweeting away on his account, though he has yet to say anything directly addressing the discussion he had. Rams blog Turf Show Times thinks Rams' front office is being a "big 'ol fuddy duddy."

Former Jaguars wideout Jimmy Smith released to house arrest

Jimmy Smith is under house arrest after spending the last six-plus months in jail for cocaine possession and carrying a firearm. Smith was initially sentenced to six years in prison, so being home should be a welcome change. He will only be allowed to leave the house to attend work, school or church.

Smith will be eligible for parole in June 2014, at which point the parole board will set terms for his release.

Smith racked up over 12,000 yards receiving and was named to the Pro Bowl five times during his career with the Jaguars. He ran afoul of the NFL's substance abuse policy in 2001, however, and the organization has been hesitant to add him to "Pride of the Jaguars," their version of a Ring of Honor, because of his past troubles.

Chance Warmack impressing with the Titans

The Tennessee Titans have reportedly been impressed with rookie guard Chance Warmack since drafting him in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Offensive line coach Bruce Mathews told the Nashville Tennessean that he is very happy with what he has seen.

"He came in with a great attitude," Matthews said. "He knew he was going to have to work and he's embraced it, so we're very pleased with his development so far."

The Titans' offensive line was the cause of much consternation last season. With Warmack and free agent signing Andy Levitre in place, the interior wall figures to be much stronger in 2013. The duo will step in for Steve Hutchinson, who retired this offseason, and the combination of Leroy Harris and Deuce Lutui at right guard, who combined to give up 25 quarterback hurries last season.

More from SB Nation:

Will change finally catch up with Patriots?

Aaron Hernandez denies gang affiliation

Is Dez Bryant ready to dominate?

Schiano: No QB competition in TB, Josh Freeman will start

The buttfumble gets silent movie treatment | #Lookit

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