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.

Ainge: Isaiah Thomas visiting hip specialists, no decision yet on surgery

Ainge: Isaiah Thomas visiting hip specialists, no decision yet on surgery

BOSTON – The last 2 1/2 games for the Celtics have come without Isaiah Thomas (right hip) and it has certainly been a factor in Boston trailing Cleveland 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals heading into tonight’s must-win for the Celtics to keep their season alive.
 
There have been rumors that if the series with Cleveland were closer, maybe that would lead to a return to the floor for Thomas.
 
“No. No way. He’s done [this season],” Danny Ainge, Celtics president of basketball operations, said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show this morning.
 
Ainge said there’s still swelling in the hip, and it probably won’t go down enough for doctors to make a determination whether surgery is needed for another couple weeks.

Thomas was in New York City earlier this week visiting a hip specialist. He's expected to consult with at least two more before making a decision as to what's the best course of treatment.
 
“Everybody agrees if there’s anything that needs to be done to it surgically, it helps...if the inflammation goes down,” Ainge said. “The recovery [time] would be quicker.”
 
The injury initially occurred on March 15 against Minnesota.
 
Ainge said he didn’t become too concerned about it until after Thomas re-aggravated it in Game 6 of the second-round series against Washington and was questionable to play in Game 7.
 
“I was worried going into the Cleveland series that he was nowhere near himself in Game 1 or 2,” Ainge said. “And Game 2 in the second quarter it was clear he was in a lot of pain. No way we could go out and allow him to play the second half.”
 
Boston was blown out 130-86 in Game 2. In the first half, Thomas had two points and six assists, while missing all six of his shots from the field.
 
Ainge said there was “a lot” of irritation and inflammation around the affected joint in Thomas' right hip.
 
“It had gotten worse from the MRIs he had before,” said Ainge, who added that it would have been “irresponsible to allow him to play anymore.”
 

Farrell launches 'Farrell's Fighters' ticket program for cancer patients

Farrell launches 'Farrell's Fighters' ticket program for cancer patients

Red Sox manager John Farrell, who was diagnosed with and successfully treated for lymphoma in 2015, today announced a new ticket program, “Farrell’s Fighters,” that invites patients being treated for the disease and their family to a game each month throughout the season.
 
“It was a challenging battle going through the treatment a few years ago, and beyond the support of family and friends, one of the things that helped me get through it was the escape I found in the game of baseball,” Farrell said in a team statement. “I hope this program can provide a positive, momentary break for the patients and their families from the daily rigors of treatment, and for baseball to be a tonic for them, as it was for me.”
 
In addition to VIP seats at the game, the program will include a meeting with the Red Sox manager, a tour of the ballpark, the chance to watch batting practice, and lunch or dinner in the EMC Club restaurant.
 
“Farrell’s Fighters” will launch with patients from Massachusetts General Hospital, where Farrell was treated in 2015, but will expand to include other area hospitals. The first patient to take part in the program is Nate Bouley, 42, of Sudbury, Mass., who was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2015, and is in remission for the third time. Bouley, his wife, and two children will attend the Red Sox-Mariners game Sunday.