So many questions logically raced to mind on Thursday when news broke of Alfonzo Dennard’s arrest for suspicion of driving under the influence earlier that morning in his former college home of Nebraska. Instinctively, though, there was only one reaction.
What a dummy!
If I may…
Seriously, dude? Two weeks after your former Patriots teammate Aaron Hernandez is accused of murder and a host of other charges, you’re going to put yourself in harm’s way? In Nebraska – the same place where you were convicted of third-degree assault of a police officer and a misdemeanor for resisting arrest only three months ago? You know you’re on probation, right? For two years. It’s been three months!
I’m not sure what you were doing there; maybe you had to be in town to fulfill some of that court-mandated community service. Still, how in the world do you do anything to draw attention to yourself in a place where, odds are, you’re not on the cops’ most-desired autograph list? You should be afraid to jaywalk out there, even if it’s right in front of Memorial Stadium.
You really risked having a drink and getting behind the wheel? There wasn’t a cab available, or one of those free NFL-provided rides we’re always hearing about? Ignoring for a moment the fact that it’s incredibly dangerous to drink and drive, this was remarkably poor judgment for someone so closely under the microscope. On a Stupid Scale of 1-10, you get your uniform number. For those without a yearbook, that’s 37.
Okay, enough of that.
The facts aren’t out yet as to whether the 23-year-old Dennard had a rough night of partying or just enjoyed a drink or two with an uncharacteristically late dinner, but it almost doesn’t matter. Short of being the victim of a hate crime, any single action that would risk a run-in with the law, given his personal history and what is currently going on with his embattled employer in Foxborough, is a mistake. Wasn’t he paying attention when Pats owner Robert Kraft spoke to the media about how the team would proceed with potentially troubled players in the wake of the Hernandez situation? It was Monday.
Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a shock. Dennard has already shown a supreme lack of wisdom in the past by getting into that altercation with police just days before he could have made big bucks in the draft. His stock plummeted from a projected early-round selection to a seventh-round survival because no one to that point other than Bill Belichick believed in him. The New England head coach was willing to take a flier, checkered past and all.
After a successful rookie year in 2012 in which his role grew with time and he wound up starting seven games, Dennard still had to appear before a judge in April to answer for his previous indiscretions. It’s Cornhuskers territory, and the former letterman got off easy. A note from Belichick couldn’t have hurt. It was a new lease on life; an opportunity to prove the rest of the NFL wrong for passing on him, and his coach right for taking the chance. So this is how he repays him? He puts his job on the line two weeks before camp, at a time when the organization may feel the need to make some sort of statement? Bill’s gotta be blowing steam out the cutoff sleeves of his hoodie.
Unlike with Hernandez, I’m not advocating for the Patriots to cut Dennard just yet. The situations aren’t remotely similar. Really, this would be little more than a public relations inconvenience for the team if not for the fact that A) he has a history of legal troubles, and B) oh yeah, that Hernandez thing.
The club, as it has already acknowledged, will collect its facts and make a decision soon. Dennard, with the exception of some talent and the Pats’ lack of depth at the position, is a very livable loss on the roster and it doesn’t break the bank to let him go. Admittedly, it helps his case that the season is rapidly approaching and only guys from my flag football team are available, but it also belabors the point of stupidity and it’s up to Kraft and Belichick to decide which is more important: football or the lesson. Personally, I think the Patriots can make their point through suspensions and fines before an outright release would be necessary. That’s all to say, of course, Dennard doesn’t find himself behind bars sooner than the 30-day March appointment he already had scheduled for his previous infractions. He did violate his parole, after all.
For Dennard’s sake, I’d love for all of this to be as simple as one innocent drink with friends before deciding to drive home, during which he was led askew while playing with his radio, picking up a call, or setting the GPS. I’m inclined to believe the idiotic alternative is more likely based on his track record. It just may be the classic case of an entitled professional athlete feeling invincible, or a bit of “big fish, little pond” syndrome. Honestly, a small part of me expects Dennard to slap his attorney on the butt the next time he’s in the courtroom August 12.
In the Hernandez saga, new information is piling up by the day. The sooner he disappears from the news for New England, the better. Dennard’s case remains somewhat mysterious, but he’s surpassed an acceptable number of mulligans. The Patriots will choose if he’s worth the risk going forward.
Hard not to now ask who’s next, and how soon, isn’t it?
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Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.
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