Oct 7, 2012; Foxboro, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (37) during the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Second-year starting CB Alfonzo Dennard pleaded guilty today to violation of his probation in the early morning of July 11th, when he was arrested on the suspicion of driving under the influence. At today’s hearing, Dennard admitted that he drank alcohol before his DUI arrest, although he did not admit guilt to drunken driving. He claims he had only consumed two beers over four hours before getting behind the wheel of his girlfriend’s car. Dennard will remain on probation until his sentencing on December 5th, where he could face jail time in addition to an NFL suspension. Even before that day he will have to appear again in court on October 8th for the actual DUI charge. While prosecutors claim Dennard blew a .107 and a .153 on his brethalyzer tests, they say he did not complete the tests to the officers’ satisfaction.
Regardless of the legal outcome of these two court appearances, Dennard is almost certain to suffer an NFL imposed penalty in the form of suspension or at the very least a fine. Depending on how the league views his offenses, the league could suspend him for the violation of the substance-abuse policy or the personal-conduct policy. An interesting quote that could indicate the league’s view:
"“DUIs don’t fall under the personal-conduct policy. Drunk driving gets processed under the substance-abuse policy. And the substance-abuse policy provides that, ordinarily, a player will only be fined for a first-offense DUI.”— Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk.com"
Dennard is technically facing a first-offense DUI, which according to this quote would only merit a fine, but the NFL is sure to take into account his previous legal trouble and the fact that he was on probation at the time of his arrest. While he could be suspended immediately for the violation of probation after admitting guilt in court today, the league will likely wait until after his DUI hearing on Oct. 8. If the league chooses to delay punishment even further until after his sentencing date, December 5th, it could put the Patriots in a very tough spot considering the looming playoffs. The final three games of the season see the Patriots take on two competitive division opponents (Miami and Buffalo) and the reigning Super Bowl champion Ravens in Baltimore. Being without one of their best defensive players in the most critical games of the regular season could mean the difference in playoff seeding or even a playoff berth if the division race is tight come week 15.
In the event that the Patriots are without Dennard for an extended period of time, the defense will look to the rookie out of Rutgers, Logan Ryan. The young player improved
Pats 7, 2012; Foxboro, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (37) and safety Tavon Wilson (27) celebrate a stop against the Denver Broncos during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
tremendously during OTAs and the preseason, and he has experience playing outside coverage and in the slot. This proficiency of playing both positions will help smooth his transition to a starter should Dennard miss time, since current slot corner Kyle Arrington has experience playing in both roles as well. While Arrington is one of the better slot-receivers in the league whereas his outside play is just decent, the two can be used interchangeably to create more favorable match-ups. The early impression of Arrington so far this season is that he has elevated his game significantly, making big plays in both of the Patriots’ first two games. In the season-opener against Buffalo he finished the game with 5 tackles, and 2 forced fumbles. Since turnovers proved to be the difference-makers in that game, Arrington’s play was invaluable.
To wrap it up, if Dennard misses any time the Patriots should be able to compensate for the loss. The tandem of Logan Ryan and Kyle Arrington, along with veteran outside-corner Aqib Talib, is good enough to hold the defense together although the secondary does become significantly weaker without Dennard on the field. Of course, another way to ensure success without Dennard is for the offense to put up enough points to make the defensive play less-crucial, much like they did two years ago to reach the Super Bowl. But with the slow growth of Brady’s new receivers and all of the injuries the team has faced, this may be easier said than done.