Dennard happy to last with Patriots

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Dennard happy to last with Patriots

FOXBORO -- For Alfonzo Dennard, surviving the NFL's cutdown dates inspired a sigh.

"It feels good just to be on a team, you know?"

He barely ducked into the NFL draft to begin with.

Dennard was arrested April 21, 2012 on suspicion of assaulting a police officer. The 22-year old got in a fight outside a Lincoln, Nebraska bar at 2 a.m. that Saturday. When an officer tried to intervene, Dennard allegedly punched him in the head.

Dennard's future was quickly eclipsed by doubt.

The All-Big Ten corner who received defensive back of the year honors became the Nebraska DB who got arrested.

"Character concerns," that bright red flag, was quickly hoisted in scouting reports.

Projected earlier by some as a second-round pick, Dennard's stock plummeted.

"My agent was like, 'No matter where you go, it's still going to be exciting.' But I was like, 'No, man, I don't think so.'

"I wanted to go higher."

At first, he struggled to cope. How did everything get so out of control? Who would take a risk on the alleged Kid Who Hit a Cop?

Dennard needed bracing. Luckily, he got it.

"I have a lot of people who supported me," he said. "My family -- that's the most important. Without my family I don't think I could have gone through the whole situation. I've never been in a situation like that before so it was kind of hard for me, but my family stuck by my side."

The clan had plenty of loving hands to extend; Dennard has 10 brothers (including a twin, Lorenzo) and three sisters.

He smiled when illustrating the breadth of his family tree, to see his listener absorb the strength of their numbers. And he was grateful to consider it himself, as he does every day.

"That's why I say my family, they're everything," he said.

New England selected Dennard in the seventh round with pick No. 224 -- a triple-digit measurement of how far he had fallen.

"It just humbled me," he said. "It humbled me a lot because I felt like I was supposed to be at the top. But since I went in the seventh round I have to work harder. I have to prove the doubters wrong."

He started with the legal fallout.

There were court dates to make, pleas to enter. Unlike the other rookies, there was no gushing post-draft conference call, no celebratory meet-and-greet. During what was supposed to be the most exciting time in a young football player's life, he was largely removed from the public eye.

In the meantime, people from Dennard's past came out in the media as character witnesses.

"For four years, I didn't have a problem with that young man in any way," Cornhuskers coach Bo Pellini told ESPN Boston. "He did things exactly how we asked him to do them here, and the way we handle our kids, we don't make it easy on the kids in our program. We hold them to high standards every single day."

The court proceedings were eventually put on hold. Dennard's lawyer, Terry Dougherty, was granted a continuance until December.

Great, right? Time to focus on football.

If only.

Dennard missed 16 practice sessions after suffering a hamstring injury on Day 2 of training camp. He didn't return to action until the Patriots traveled to Tampa for preseason Game 3. One forced fumble in the preseason finale against the Giants was the highlight in a sample size too small to judge.

But the final word, since April, has come from the Patriots. The coaching staff has thus far felt him worth keeping among the select 53. And his teammates support the decision wholeheartedly.

"I think a great thing, when looking at 'Zo, is how hard he's worked," said one of 2011's captains, Devin McCourty. "He's a guy who was limited a little bit throughout training camp with injuries, but he's worked hard just paying attention when watching film and working hard in the weight room to get back on the field. I think it was exciting to watch him get back into practice and into the game and kind of just pick up where everyone else is. Whenever you see a rookie able to do that, I think it's encouraging."

Just what Dennard needs.

"I'm ready to just get everything over with and just have my mind on football," he said. "It's kind of hard right now, I have my mind on both things, I'm just trying to stick on football."

Dennard's rough-hewn road to the NFL's Week 1 has given him a unique perspective. It may not be one he wanted, but it's what he got.

Cutdown day? A hurdle cleared. A leap in the right direction.

"It's pretty rough, but it kind of woke me up, though," Dennard said. "You never know where you'll be the next day, so you just have to, don't get complacent. Just have fun for the day and don't worry about what's going to happen tomorrow. Stay focused on what's going to happen today."

A lesson learned the hardest way.

Gronkowski after surgery: 'Dance floor tomorrow night... here I come'

Gronkowski after surgery: 'Dance floor tomorrow night... here I come'

After undergoing back surgery earlier in the day on Friday, Rob Gronkowski is back on his feet and cracking jokes.

The injured Patriots tight end posted a video of himself on his feet with the assistance of a walker captioned "Rehab day 1! "Can't nobody hold me down... Oo no I got to keep on movin"

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In the video, Gronk takes a few steps and says, “Dance floor tomorrow night. . . here I come.”

Watch the video below [NSFW language from Gronk's dad]

Rehab day 1! "Can't nobody hold me down... Oo no I got to keep on movin"

A video posted by Rob Gronkowski (@gronk) on

Al Horford's strong play propels Celtics to 97-92 win over Kings

Al Horford's strong play propels Celtics to 97-92 win over Kings

BOSTON – You knew Boston’s dominance over the Sacramento Kings at the TD Garden was going to come to an end someday. 

Well that day won’t come around for at least another season as the Celtics’ forgotten man just a couple nights ago, Al Horford, came up with big plays at both ends of the floor that helped propel Boston to a 97-92 win. 

With Boston ahead 95-92 with less than 10 seconds to play, the Kings had one chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer. 

They got the ball to their best player DeMarcus Cousins who tried to draw a foul against his defender, Al Horford. 

Cousins’ attempt to sell there being contact behind the 3-point line was not being bought by the officials. 

After his missed shot, Sacramento’s Garrett Temple fouled Horford with 4.8 seconds to play. 

Horford, who finished with a season-high 26 points, went to the line and made both of the free throws to seal the victory. 

The Celtics (11-8) have now won five of their last seven games overall as they hit the road where they’ve won four in a row away from the TD Garden.

Meanwhile the Kings (7-12) have now lost nine straight at the TD Garden.

Sacramento had swung the game’s momentum in their favor at the end of the third and early in the fourth, but the Celtics refused to go down without a fight. 

A shot by Horford tied the game at 76. And on the ensuing Kings possession, Horford came up with a blocked shot that ultimately led to lay-up for Jonas Jerebko to put Boston up 78-76.

Cousins suffered a cut above his right eye in the fourth quarter and finished with 28 points, nine rebounds and three assists. 

After a Sacramento time-out following Jerebko’s basket, the Celtics came up with another turnover – their 15thforced turnover of the night – that led to a lay-up by Kelly Olynyk.

On the ensuing Olynyk basket, Cousins took a blow to the head on the play that forced him to leave with 7:08to play. 

With no Cousins on the floor, the Celtics tightened up their perimeter defense and made a point of attacking the Sacramento interior immediately.

Isaiah Thomas, who finished with 20 points, converted a three-point play at the 6:33 mark - 35 seconds after Cousins left the game.

The close finish was in stark contrast to how the game begin. 

In Boston’s 121-114 loss to Detroit on Wednesday, Horford only took five shots from the field. 

After the game, head coach Brad Stevens said that should have never happened. 

Jae Crowder called it “unacceptable.”

Well it didn’t take Horford long to get five shot attempts – about five minutes actually. 

And the four-time all-star hit most of them as he helped the Celtics lead by as many as 13 points in the first quarter before the Kings closed out the quarter with a 10-0 run to tie the game at 29. 

Horford led four double figure scorers for Boston which included Thomas, Jae Crowder (16 points) and Avery Bradley (15 points).