Pats offer free No. 81 jersey swaps

The New England Patriots have had a reputation throughout the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era for valuing character as much as actual talent, but that reputation has taken a serious hit lately.

The murder charge levied against Aaron Hernandez in the slaying of Odin Lloyd and subsequent revelation that the ex-Patriots tight end also reportedly is being investigated in a 2012 double homicide, in the eyes of many, has destroyed a lot of that Patriots mystique that had been so prevalent over the past decade in the NFL.

It has become immediately clear that the Patriots are going to do everything they can to separate themselves from the Hernandez situation.

The first step was obvious: releasing the tight end from his contract. But Robert Kraft and the rest of the New England front office have gone a step further by offering fans an opportunity to exchange their No. 81 Hernandez jerseys at the Patriots ProShop.

The swap will be held on July 6 and 7 at the ProShop, and jersey owners will have the ability to exchange their No. 81 for the jersey of any other Patriots player. The exchange is for jerseys available in the ProShop only and is limited to one per person.

"We know that children love wearing their Patriots jerseys, but may not understand why parents don’t want them wearing their Hernandez jerseys anymore," team spokesperson Stacey James said in a news release. "We hope this opportunity to exchange those jerseys at the Patriots ProShop for another player’s jersey will be well received by parents."

The returns are for specific jerseys, so before setting out to return any Hernandez jersey you own make sure to check the rules, which can be found here.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.