Curran: Precedent and price paid should help Dennard

Curran: Precedent and price paid should help Dennard
April 9, 2013, 12:45 pm
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On Thursday, Alfonzo Dennard will find out his fate in front of a judge in Lincoln, Nebraska.
 
After that, the Patriots cornerback will learn his football fate from the NFL’s judge and jury, commissioner Roger Goodell.
 
Dennard, the second-year Patriots cornerback, was convicted in February of third-degree assault on a police officer in an incident in April 2012, one week before the NFL Draft.

Dennard was also convicted on a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest. He was acquitted on a misdemeanor charge of assaulting another man.

Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly said at the time of the conviction that his office would not recommend a specific sentence for Dennard. The penalty carries up to a five-year jail term, although Kelly said typical sentences in similar cases range from probation to up to 180 days in jail, according to the Omaha World Herald.

The reporter who’s been closest to the case, Leslie Reed of the Omaha World Herald, stated that probation is a probable sentence. However, Reed also observed when talking last month to 98.5 The Sports Hub that the atmosphere in downtown Lincoln when the bars let out on the weekends has a history of being chaotic. Authorities have been concerned about that, said Reed, and the chance seems to exist that the Dennard sentencing is an opportunity for message-sending to the community at large about what will happen if one doesn’t respect the peace. Or the police.
 
If Dennard winds up with jail time, even a three-month sentence would have him out before training camp begins. So it doesn’t appear the American justice system will keep Dennard off the field in 2013.
 
The NFL justice system, however, is a different story. Goodell’s tenure as commissioner has been marked by a sharp focus on reining in players whose off-field behavior has landed them in trouble with the law.
 
From Chris Henry to Michael Vick to Ben Roethlisberger, Goodell has been strict in handing down suspensions. Goodell’s also been a supporter of players who got his message and appear to rehab themselves.
 
Draconian as some find Goodell to be, it would be surprising if Goodell imposes a suspension on Dennard.
 
First, Dennard already paid a financial price during the 2012 draft as he slipped from a projected top-100 pick down to the 224th overall pick.
 
The Patriots were extremely generous considering they took Dennard at a spot where most players were getting two-year, $900,000 deals. The Patriots gave Dennard a four-year, $2.157 million contract. Dennard paid the price in his signing bonus, though, getting just $57,848.
 
By comparison, the final corner taken in the third round last year, Jayron Hosley, receiver a four-year, $2.637 million contract from the Giants that included a $515,000 signing bonus.
 
Casey Hayward, the last corner taken in the second round, signed a four-year, $3.3 million contract. That deal contains $1.4 million guaranteed, including an $847,000 signing bonus
 
It can be argued that Dennard’s arrest cost him about $500,000.
 
Additionally, Dennard has no prior criminal record and the incident last April appears to be an extreme outlier.
 
Finally, Dennard wasn’t yet in the NFL when the incident occurred. While Goodell is within his rights to review the case and weigh a decision under the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy, a suspension for something Dennard did before becoming an NFL player would no doubt spark protest from the NFLPA.
 
A case similar to Dennard’s involved Jets defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis. Ellis was charged with a felony for malicious wounding after an April 2010 incident in college. He was drafted in the third round by the Jets in 2011. Last May, he accepted a plea deal, spent 45 days in jail and was not suspended by Goodell. Ellis had a history before the April 2010 arrest and Dennard’s incident with Lincoln police didn’t seem to have the same forethought as Ellis’ did.
 
Until everyone rules on the penalties for Alfonzo Dennard’s horrible, no good, very bad night last April 21, we won’t know for sure whether he’ll be back as a starting corner for the Patriots in September 2013. But it would be a surprise if he’s not.