Dennard deals with draft disappointment

Dennard deals with draft disappointment

By Tom E. Curran

On the third day of the 2012 NFL Draft, after 223 young men had already been selected, Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was chosen by the Patriots.

Until a week before the draft, the 100 or so friends and family gathered in the Wilcox High gym in Georgia figured they'd be celebrating a proud moment for a native son.

But after Dennard got arrested for assaulting a police officer and spent the weekend before the draft in jail, the tenor of the event changed some.

Relief trumped rejoice. Bad enough that Dennard had gone about 150 spots after he could have been drafted, imagine if he hadn't been selected at all?

No sympathetic looks were sent Dennard's way, no attempts at deciphering his outward level of disappointment. He'd left the event hours earlier.

Their native son was the nation's example of what a stupid incident less than a week before the draft can do to your NFL employment prospects.

Dennard punched a cop. That's what the incident report from a night out in Lincoln, Nebraska says and Dennard will be arraigned on the charge this Wednesday.

While the offense carries a maximum five-year prison term, even if Dennard's found guilty, jail seems a remote possibility since he's got no history of legal troubles.

In fact, Dennard's paying for the incident already both in the amount of money he would have made as a second or third-round pick (his pre-incident projection) and in reputation and embarrassment.

The Patriots haven't made Dennard available to the media. But his agent, Brian Murphy, said that Dennard had a surprising reaction to his draft freefall.

"His reaction to the whole process was mind-boggling to me because he said, 'Things happen the way they're supposed to happen. And this is all happening for a reason and all I can do is prove everyone wrong and show that I'm a great cornerback, a great teammate and a great man and he wants to reward the Patriots for the faith they showed,' " said Murphy. "I wouldn't describe him as down and out."

As Dennard's agent, Murphy has an obvious interest in putting a positive face on a negative situation. But coupling Murphy's comments with those made by Dennard's head coach at Nebraska and by Bill Belichick, the notion Dennard's arrest was completely out of character is more believable.
"That isn't who he is, that's never been who he is, and that's not going to be who he is in the future," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said to ESPNBoston's Field Yates. "And I put my reputation, and I put everything I stand for as a football coach behind that young man."He is a tremendous young man, and one who you want not only representing you as a football player, but the type of kid you want in your community, the type of kid you want representing your organization."Meanwhile, Belichick told SIRIUS-XM's NFL Radio that, "We just don't feel that's who he is, or even how the account of the incident came out in some places, that's what happened. But we'll see. Bottom line is we were comfortable with him, and that if he did make a mistake like so many of us have, that he'll be able to represent our organization and our team the way we want it represented and we were comfortable taking him."

That so many people showed up to Dennard's draft party even with the legal issues shows a healthy respect for Dennard among people who know him well.

"He's a perfect representative of the town and they're so proud of him," said Murphy. "When I met him, it was always, 'Yes, sir; No, sir; Yes, Mr. Murphy.' When I asked what was important to him, he said taking care of his mom and representing his town well. It was a neat experience watching how the people in town reacted to him."

Murphy got to know Dennard well after the 22-year-old agreed to be represented by Murphy's firm.

"When they sign with Athlete's First, they come out to California and train at our academy," Murphy explained. "We literally see them every day and we get to know them pretty well. And we had 13 or 14 people out there including (Patriots third-round chouce) Jake Bequette and of all those guys, Alfonzo was as polite, respectful, quiet and hard-working as anyone. He's the type of guy you want to represent because you know he's not going to get in trouble, ironically. ... We described him to many teams as, 'This is a guy you don't have to worry about. He just wants to play football and take care of his family.' "

According to Murphy, the past 10 months have been filled with adversity for Dennard. To be candid, though, some of it - like the Lincoln arrest and a fight with South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery in the Capital One Bowl - was self-created.

A thigh injury (Murphy described as "severe") early in his senior season and a hip injury before the Senior Bowl were other issues Dennard faced.

"Those were three things that happened during the course of the season that built his character through adversity," Murphy explained. "Each time he said, 'I'm going to learn from this, I'm going to get better from this.' "

Regardless of what happens Wednesday, the jury will remain out on Dennard until some time passes.

Declarations that his arrest is "Not who Alfonzo is..." won't carry any weight if he can't stay trouble-free.

He's got people who believe in him, though. From Foxboro to Lincoln, Nebraska to Georgia a lot of people insist Dennard is worth backing.

Does Brady have words planned for Goodell at Super Bowl? 'We'll see'

Does Brady have words planned for Goodell at Super Bowl? 'We'll see'

Tom Brady wouldn't take the bait following the AFC title game. He was told that he must've heard the "Where's Roger?" chants, and so then he must've had a reaction.

"I didn't hear that chant," Brady replied. 

WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show took another run at the Patriots quarterback's relatonship with commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday morning. Had Brady thought about what he might say should he come face-to-face with Goodell at Super Bowl LI?

"Hopefully we’ll finish the deal," Brady said. "Hopefully we can finish it off, and we’ll see. Maybe I’ll tell you after. But I don’t want to get into winning something before we’ve won it, because it’s going to be hard to win this thing."

Should the Patriots win their fifth Super Bowl title, Brady probably won't be accepting the Lombardi Trophy from Goodell. That exchange usually takes place with the owner at center stage. Perhaps there's a scenario in which Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft allows Brady to take the stage first, but it would go against what has been Super Bowl protocol. 

Brady and Goodell could be forced to share the spotlight on the morning after the Super Bowl, however, when the MVP trophy is handed out. It's a ritual they carried out together on the morning following Super Bowl XLIX, when Deflategate was in its nascent stages.

One would think that the embrace they shared that day -- long before the Wells Report was published and long before Brady and the league were pitted against one another in federal court -- will be the last thing that either man wants to recreate two weeks from now. 

Brady on the effectiveness of Belichick's approach: 'You're brainwashed'

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Brady on the effectiveness of Belichick's approach: 'You're brainwashed'

During his weekly interview with WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show, Tom Brady highlighted the thought process that has helped make the Patriots such a successful team under Bill Belichick, and in the process of complimenting his boss, Brady also may have taken a little inadvertent shot at the Steelers. Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin noted immediately after the Divisional Round that the Patriots had an advantage in preparing for the AFC title game because they had more time to rest.

"I would say in general on our team we have a sign on our wall that says, ‘Doing the right thing for the team when it might not be the right thing for you.’ That’s just putting everything aside," Brady said. "Ignoring the noise, the positive things people may be saying about you, or the negative things people may say about you. Just believing in yourself and not making excuses.

"There’s always an excuse you can build into why you lose a game. 'We’re only playing on six days rest, we have this person hurt, or we didn’t get that call.' There are a million of them, and they’re all built in and you can pick them all off before the game. I think our coach does a great job of never buying into the B.S. He never makes it about one player. He never makes it about one play. He never makes it about one call, or one situation. It’s all about all of us collectively trying to do the best thing we can for the team to try and help us win. He never lets his foot off the gas pedal so when it comes to our team, you’re brainwashed. That’s just the way it goes."

The numbers support Belichick's approach: He'll be coaching in a 10th Super Bowl, and seven of those have come as the head coach of the Patriots. Both are NFL records.