Alfonzo Dennard‘s timing couldn’t be worse.
There’s never really a good time to be arrested, but if there was ever a worst time for it to happen, it’s now.
Dennard was taken into custody by Lincoln, Neb., police on “suspicion of DUI,” early Thursday morning. He hasn’t been convicted or even arraigned yet, but Dennard’s mere association with legal trouble just piles onto the laundry list of problems in New England.
The Patriots are in the middle of maybe the single worst offseason in team history, starting with Wes Welker‘s ugly break up in free agency, exacerbated by Rob Gronkowski‘s (numerous) surgeries and capped off by the Aaron Hernandez murder case. This season is already looking more and more like an episode of Playmakers by the day, and Dennard’s arrest just made matters even worse.
Driving under the influence is a petty charge in comparison to murder, but it’s still a serious matter and something neither the Patriots nor NFL takes lightly. Only one player has been cited for a DUI during Bill Belichick‘s tenure in New England — former wide receiver Marquise Walker in 2004 — and he was released within the week, according to the San Diego Union-Times’ NFL Arrest Database.
Considering his talents, Dennard might not face the same harsh fate as Walker, who was nothing more than a failed NFLer. Then again, they didn’t bat an eye at releasing Henrandez, a Pro Bowl tight end mind you, just minutes after his arrest. So, maybe Dennard shouldn’t get too comfortable just yet.
Whatever the outcome, timing hasn’t been a strong suit of Dennard’s since entering the league. Not necessarily on the field, as he’s excelled in coverage and was very adept at breaking up passes, but it’s off the field where he could uses a little coaching.
Last year, Dennard was arrested in Lincoln for assaulting a police officer just days before the NFL draft. He’s since been convicted and sentenced to two years probation and 30 days in jail, which he’ll serve next March. That bout of legal trouble saw Dennard drop at least five rounds on draft weekend and cost him millions of dollars on his rookie contract.
This time around, Dennard’s staring down the possibility of jail time, a potential suspension from the NFL or even a trip to the unemployment line. But, for the Patriots, the ramifications could be equally as harsh. The Patriots are barely on the heels of Hernandez’s arrest. They’re constantly dealing with questions and speculation about their organizational practices (see: the Patriot Way), and their current roster doesn’t exactly resemble that of a Super Bowl contender.
The Patriots were one bad half of football away from the Super Bowl last season, but, at this point, even making the playoffs might be a challenge. Sure, Tom Brady is still under center and Belichick is still the one calling the shots, which might be comforting to some, but there’s no telling the impact that the off-field distractions might take. And Dennard’s arrest certainly doesn’t help the cause.
Dennard is a good kid and a helluva football player. He’s already gotten one chance and probably deserves another, but first he needs to smarten up. Guilty or innocent, any run-in with police is unacceptable, and even more damaging when your team is still trying to pick up the pieces from the PR-equivalent of an offseason nuclear disaster.
The Patriots will spend the next few days gathering facts and deliberating about Dennard’s future with the team. But while they dig deep into his run-in with police, maybe what they should be doing is figuring out how to better police themselves. Because whatever they’re doing now clearly needs some fixing.