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Patriots Paying a Heavy Price for Player Gambles

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Patriots Paying a Heavy Price for Player Gambles
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
The only thing holding Alfonzo Dennard back, at this point, is himself.

The New England Patriots are not losing control of their players. They are simply losing gambles.

They rolled the dice one (now two) too many times on talented players with questionable judgment. Now, they might have to pay the price of those calculated risks.

Their nightmare offseason continued on Thursday morning when it was reported by the Omaha World-Herald that Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Lincoln police Capt. Jason Stille said Dennard, 24, was pulled over and then cited about 2 a.m. Thursday near 50th Street and Normal Boulevard. He said Dennard ... was spotted by officers straddling a lane line between 50th and 56th Streets. Later, Dennard was arrested on suspicion of DUI, refusing a chemical test and a driving infraction. 

This is not Dennard's first brush with the law, and he was recently given two years of probation, 100 hours of community services and a 30-day jail sentence to be served after the 2013 season for assaulting a police officer.

Both his assault of an officer and his Thursday-morning DUI happened in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Couple this news with former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez's arrest on murder charges, and this offseason has been a bad look for the Patriots.

The Patriots' quest for value is what has brought them to this point. Hernandez was the best tight end in college football in 2009, but fell to the fourth round in 2010 for what we now know was a less-than-glowing scouting report on his character background. Dennard was considered a second-round talent headed into the 2012 draft, but the assault—which happened days before the draft—led to him being taken in the seventh round.

This is nothing new for New England, though. It has taken chances on shady characters in the past, from running back Corey Dillon to linebacker Bryan Cox to defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth to cornerback Aqib Talib. In those cases and others, the Patriots saw an opportunity to add a talented player that was being overlooked because of his off-field issues.

In most of those cases, it has not come back to hurt the Patriots.

Patriots players have had run-ins with the law while with the team, though. Former Patriots running back Kevin Faulk and defensive back Willie Andrews were arrested on separate drug and gun charges in the 2008 offseason. 

Since Belichick took over in 2000, though, the Patriots' off-field transgressions have been few and far between, comparatively speaking.

A recent chart from Digg.com outlines the number of arrests per team since 2000 (click for a full-size version). The Patriots' tally was 15 at the time, and now 16 with the Dennard arrest. That number is still in the bottom 10 in the NFL.

We're not exactly dealing with the Bengals of years past here.

Until recently, Patriots players have avoided run-ins with the law, but nearly every NFL locker room has unsavory characters, and the Patriots have taken chances on those players in the name of talent. 

Who is most to blame for the Patriots' tumultuous offseason?

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This is not a case of the Patriots losing control of their players, a conclusion which fails to put the blame where it truly belongs: on the players. In both cases, the Patriots gave them the second chance that no other team would, and both players squandered that second chance.

Whether this affects their future decisions remains to be seen, but either way, there's no doubt it's affecting the present perception of the team. As long as the Patriots continue taking chances on players with checkered pasts, they will invite the risk that comes with such a gamble. 

 

Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all stats obtained from the Sports-Reference.com network, and all quotes obtained firsthand or via team press releases. 

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