Patriots second-year cornerback Alfonzo Dennard has not had the best offseason, first earning a deferred 30-day jail sentence for assaulting a police officer and then getting arrested July 11 in Lincoln, Neb., under suspicion of DUI.
But despite the two arrests, as well as the negative publicity generated recently by the Aaron Hernandez situation, the Patriots do not plan on cutting Dennard, a league source told the Globe Friday.
The team is, however, prepared for Dennard to be suspended by the NFL under the player conduct policy. As a reference point, Lions cornerback Aaron Berry was suspended for three games in 2012 after getting arrested twice in the offseason. An NFL spokesman said only that Dennard’s case is “under review.”
The Patriots declined to comment, but the morning after his arrest, the team said in a statement that it was “extremely disappointed to learn of Alfonzo Dennard’s arrest. We take this matter very seriously and are working to get more information on the incident.”
Dennard and his camp are disputing the facts of last week’s DUI arrest, claiming that Dennard blew into a breathalyzer twice and registered below the legal limit, and that he passed a field sobriety test. The police officer said Dennard didn’t blow hard enough into the tube, which prompted the arrest.
The Patriots felt confident enough in Dennard’s version of events and his character to give him the benefit of the doubt in this situation. Dennard, 23, was attentive and productive as a rookie and gave the coaching staff few problems.
Dennard is currently on probation after his April conviction of assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest, stemming from an altercation April 21, 2012, also in Lincoln. Dennard was allowed to wait until March 2014 to serve his 30-day jail sentence, but was also given two years probation. The police officer he punched was not wearing a uniform at the time.
Nebraska prosecutors are now moving to have Dennard’s probation revoked, and he is due in court on July 31, five days after the Patriots begin training camp. It is possible that Dennard is sent back to jail during that hearing, which could complicate matters for the Patriots. His first court hearing for the DUI arrest will be Aug. 12, but the case could drag out over several months.
Dennard started seven games last year as a rookie, finishing the season with 35 tackles, three interceptions, a forced fumble, and a touchdown. Expected to start opposite Aqib Talib this year, Dennard is a talented player who fell to the seventh round of last year’s draft because of his arrest.
Dennard also has a favorable contract — salary cap numbers of $494,462, $584,462, and $674,462 over the next three seasons.
The Patriots have several options to replace Dennard if he is suspended, including Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling, Marquice Cole, and third-round pick Logan Ryan. Converted safeties Devin McCourty and Tavon Wilson can also play cornerback. The Patriots also have two undrafted rookie cornerbacks in camp, Brandon Jones and Stephon Morris.
. . .
The Patriots released wide receiver Donald Jones, whom they signed as an unrestricted free agent March 15. Jones is entering his fourth NFL season after making 82 career receptions with Buffalo.
Jones signed a three-year contract worth $3.41 million but it did not include any guaranteed money. The Patriots avoided paying Jones a $200,000 reporting bonus by cutting him before training camp.
The Patriots also signed undrafted rookie wideouts Perez Ashford and Quentin Sims.