The New England Patriots could have a problem on their hands. Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard could have a bigger problem on his hands.
Dennard was involved in an alleged assault of a police officer in the days prior to the 2012 NFL Draft, and according to the Omaha World Herald (h/t ProFootballTalk), the officer on the receiving end of the assault testified in the case.
Officer Benjamin Kopsa was the prosecution's first witness in Dennard's trial in Lancaster County District Court. Dennard, 23, faces a felony charge of third-degree assault on an officer and two misdemeanors in the April 21, 2012, incident. If convicted of all three charges, Dennard, who plays now for the New England Patriots, faces a maximum jail term of seven years, plus up to $12,000 in fines.
The 2012 seventh-round pick was projected by many to be a second- or third-round selection before the assault. He stepped up last season after some injuries and poor play had plagued the Patriots secondary.
His move to the outside, coupled with the addition of cornerback Aqib Talib, allowed the Patriots to run more man coverage on the outside. Arrington played considerably better when he moved to the slot and the final result looked a lot closer to an NFL-caliber secondary than anything we've seen in New England for years.
The Patriots now face the potential that all three of those cornerbacks could be gone next year.
Both Talib and Arrington are free agents. Signs point to a difficult road to an agreement between Talib and the Patriots, unless they are able to strike an agreement on a one-year deal or the Patriots unexpectedly put the franchise tag on him.
If Dennard is in prison, the Patriots are short on promising talent at cornerback. Safety Devin McCourty would almost certainly have to move back to cornerback and Marquice Cole would be thrust into a starting role.
Of course, the Patriots probably won't let it get to that point.
If they do, there are other free-agent cornerbacks the Patriots could pursue. The Patriots have already been projected by some, including Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, to take a cornerback in the first round of April's draft in early mocks.
He may not serve a seven-year sentence, a one-year sentence or even a one-week sentence, but the Patriots could use help in the secondary regardless of what happens to Dennard.
There's a lot hanging in the balance for the Patriots at cornerback and this latest bit of news presents a factor that is out of their immediate control. That was the risk the Patriots assumed in drafting him in the seventh round and picking him so late will help minimize the collateral damage if he does miss time.
UPDATE: Thursday, February 13 at 7:47 PM
According to Zuri Berry of Boston.com, Alfonzo Dennard defended his assault of the police officer by saying he didn't punch him, but he pushed him.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.
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