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Patriots' character? Zero

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  July 11, 2013 09:39 AM

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Gronk, go to town.

Rob Gronkowski could party in the Globe parking lot at noon and not much as a single photo would turn up after what the Patriots have been through this offseason.

First Aaron Hernandez gets arrested and charged with murder. Now we discover that defensive back Alfonzo Dennard, who already, mind you, was sentenced to 30 days jail in 2014 following a felony assault charge on a police officer in 2012, was arrested Thursday morning under suspicion of driving under the influence in Nebraska.

Kumbaya, Tebow. Kumbaya.

The worst Tim Tebow presumably had to deal with a professional teammate before was wondering how Antonio Cromartie could have sex out of wedlock. So. Many. Times. But this situation is gearing up to be like the NFL version of … well, like the Bengals.

Nobody is trying to compare Dennard’s alleged DUI with the serious nature of Hernandez’s arrest, but the Patriots preaching that they only want character guys playing for their franchise is becoming more laughable by the day. Was Bob Kraft “duped” into drafting Dennard even though he knew about his previous assault? What backpedaling tripe.

I know, Wikipedia, but here’s what it says about Dennard’s draft status in 2012: “He was at one point considered one of the top cornerbacks of the draft, but encountered a series of setbacks which caused his draft projection to fall. “

Wait, wait, don’t tell me, that sounds like someone else the Patriots drafted in recent years. If only he'd sent a disingenuous letter, maybe the team would have taken him in the fourth like Hernandez.

Despite the tired mantra of the “Patriot Way,” the Patriots are no different than any other NFL team on the landscape. In fact, their bloodthirsty need to be considered smarter than everybody else in the room is starting to crumble their status as league model. How many teams knew and passed on Hernandez again? How many knew and passed on Dennard? But no. If the Patriots can get good value out of the fourth and seventh rounds, respectively, and get productive players out of it, Jonathan can snicker at Woody Johnson a little more at the next owners’ meeting.

Trouble spots mean nothing, because once players waltz into Foxborough, they are supposed to be succumbed by the power of the three banners, the most recent of which was hung when the latest draftee was probably 10 years old. Mud is also important at that age. What’s the fact that the Patriots won when he was more concerned with beating “Mario vs. Donkey Kong” going to really mean to him?

The Patriots think they still have that championship aura. They don’t.

As much as Kraft and the Patriots want to distance themselves from Hernandez, and presumably now Dennard, they can’t escape what they knew about their pasts and what it might mean for the franchise. Character guys. Right. And if the Patriots players think they’re going to avoid all this with a canned quote of, “It’s a shame” on the first day of training camp, it may not necessarily be the case.

The affidavit that contains Carlos Ortiz’ comments about the Odin Lloyd murder includes an interesting segment in which Ortiz talks about the separate apartment Hernandez rented in Franklin was also used by “other football players.” Of course, that could mean anything, from Lloyd’s teammates to Hernandez’s former college teammates, but it’s not like this story hasn’t shocked us from the beginning.

The Patriots are reeling on the field, losing Wes Welker to free agency, releasing Hernandez, and facing Gronkowski’s recovery from injury. Ask Tom Brady if Brandon Lloyd looks so bad now.

But it’s the perception of a franchise once regarded as impenetrable that has taken the biggest blow this offseason. Jokes about drafting Rutgers players aside, it’s clear that the Patriots have a serious issue in determining exactly what kind of people they are employing in an attempt to show everybody else how it’s done.

Or maybe they really are just being “duped.” Your call.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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