In the early morning hours of April 21, 2012, Alfonzo Dennard, a football player at the University of Nebraska, got into a bit of scrape with the local gendarmes. According to a police affidavit, he punched a Lincoln, Neb., officer in the face after the officer intervened to break up a scuffle.
Dennard was charged with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest. Exactly one week later, the New England Patriots, with full knowledge of the events in Lincoln, drafted Dennard in the 7th round of the 2012 NFL draft. Dennard started for them this past season as a cornerback.
Five months ago, Dennard was convicted on the felony charge of assaulting the police officer and the misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest. At his sentencing hearing in April, among those writing letters attesting to Dennard’s character was the coach of the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick.
But this being Nebraska, a judge allowed Dennard to serve his 30-day sentence next March, conveniently after the completion of the 2013 NFL season. The judge said she might consider suspending the sentence if Dennard complied with the terms of his probation.
“I hope this order of probation gives you an opportunity to set a positive example and positively influence people,” the judge told Dennard.
This week, Dennard was arrested on suspicion of DUI.
And Robert Kraft, the owner of the Patriots, wants us to believe he was “duped” by Aaron Hernandez? Spare me.
Kraft is so desperate to preserve and propagate his now-debunked “Patriot Way” that he is beginning to look like Claude Rains in “Casablanca,” offering shock that gambling is going on while simultaneously receiving his take for the evening.
None of the New England miscreants of late have done anything close to what Hernandez is alleged to have done — orchestrate the murder of a friend while possibly being involved in two other homicides. But there have been enough of them around “the building” — as Kraft referred to his Gillette Stadium — that for the owner to say he had been duped flies in the face of reason.
The Patriot Way is concerned with one thing and one thing only: winning. Squeaky clean (we think, anyway) Tom Brady might be the public embodiment of that myth, but the facts show that the Patriots have no reluctance to bring in all sorts of unsavory characters to help them win.
Kraft’s line to the Associated Press in 2011 — “I’ve got this thing. You only hang out with good people. You get the turkeys out of your life.” — may work in the rarefied air of his social circle. But for his football team in Foxborough, there have been plenty of turkeys — some of them, like Dennard, arriving after 2011.
As detailed in the Boston Globe last month, the Patriots brought back wide receiver Donté Stallworth for a second go-round with the team. Kraft apparently didn’t mind that he had been suspended for the entire 2009 season for a DUI manslaughter conviction in Florida. He also served 24 days in jail.
In the middle of last season, the Patriots traded for cornerback Aqib Talib. The fact that Talib would not be able to play immediately because he was serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy didn’t deter the Patriots. Nor did the fact that Talib had been charged in 2009 with assaulting a taxi driver and indicted in 2011 for allegedly firing a gun at his sister’s boyfriend.
There have been others. A safety named Willie Andrews was drafted in 2006 even though he had been sentenced to 30 days in jail for a gun possession conviction. After playing in a Super Bowl for the Patriots in 2008, he as arrested with eight ounces of marijuana in an unregistered car. He remained on the roster until he presumably obtained “turkey” status by allegedly drawing a gun on his girlfriend.
There were plenty of red flags surrounding Hernandez when he entered the 2010 NFL draft. None presumably said “future murderer” but there was a failed drug test at Florida. There also were some bar room “incidents” which Belichick, who is tight with then-Florida coach Urban Meyer, had to know about. There was enough information on Hernandez hanging around with the wrong crowd that several teams didn’t even bother with him, despite his obvious talent.
Last weekend, around 2,500 fans took advantage of a Hernandez buyback at the Patriots’ store. They could return their Hernandez jerseys (which cost anywhere from $100 to $250) for a jersey of some untainted Patriot.
There were plenty of No. 12 Brady jerseys available for exchange. And plenty of No. 75 Vince Wilfork jerseys too. In all, 11 player’s jerseys were available for exchange. Notably — but perhaps not surprisingly — absent was No. 37, Dennard’s jersey. Then again, Dennard will soon be wearing another number: the one given to him by the state of Nebraska corrections department.
- Radio Boston: Aaron Hernandez And A Horrible Crime
- Complete Coverage from WBUR: Hernandez Charged With Murder
- Cognoscenti: Ilan Mochari: My Tim Tebow Media Diet Starts Now
- Reminders Flood In: Athletes Are People, Not Heroes
- Cognoscenti: E.M. Swift: Oscar Pistorius: Another Athletic Hero Falls From Grace