FOXBOROUGH — Alfonzo Dennard will be going to jail for a longer period of time, must spend twice as many hours doing community service, had his probation extended by one year, and must refrain from consuming alcohol.
The cornerback will, however, be allowed to continue playing this season for the Patriots.
According to the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star, which had a reporter in the courtroom, Dennard had his probation modified Thursday, but the 30 days added to his original 30-day jail sentence won’t change the date on which he’s scheduled to begin serving the time, which is March 1, after the football season.
The new 60-day jail sentence could be reduced to 38 days with good behavior.
Dennard was appearing before Judge Stephanie Stacy in Lancaster County Court for a probation hearing. After rejecting Dennard’s request for another continuance, Stacy handed down the new sentence: In addition to the 60 days, Dennard must perform an additional 100 hours of community service, and will be on probation for an extra year. Stacy also imposed a no-alcohol provision.
Before Dennard left the courtroom, according to the newspaper, Stacy told him, “I want you to know this is your last chance.”
Dennard, who played at Nebraska, admitted in September to violating his probation, which was part of his original sentence for a felony assault conviction earlier this year. Dennard was then arrested in July, also in Nebraska, on a charge of driving under the influence, prompting the probation hearing.
Stacy had the ability to re-sentence Dennard, which could have meant up to five years in jail and as high as a $10,000 fine.
Because of the court hearing, Dennard was not at practice on Thursday, and likely won’t be at Friday’s practice, either. He is scheduled to appear in Lancaster District Court on Friday afternoon regarding the DUI charge.
Shane Vereen said after practice on Thursday he still supports and has confidence in fellow running back Stevan Ridley, who was forced to sit out Sunday’s win at Houston after losing fumbles in each of the Patriots’ three previous games.
Ridley, whose locker is two down from Vereen’s, near most of the other running backs, declined an interview request Thursday, same as Wednesday. He has not spoken publicly since the Patriots made him inactive for Sunday’s game.
Coach Bill Belichick said the decision was not to send a message or make a statement, despite Ridley leading the Patriots in rushing yards, with 576, or having scored at least one rushing touchdown in five straight games earlier this season.
He still has a team-high seven rushing touchdowns.
Vereen was optimistic and supportive when talking about his teammate and the difficult times he’s going through.
“You know, Stevan is a great player, and we’re there when he needs us. But he knows what he has to do, and we fully expect him to be there,” Vereen said. “As a running back group we’re pretty close, and for that reason alone, no one’s too far down, nobody’s too high up, everybody helps each other and keeps each other going.”
Why, Vereen was asked, is Ridley in need of so much support?
“Everybody goes through ups and downs, that’s part of the game, and when you’re down, you need teammates, you need friends to help bring you back up to where you should be and start playing with confidence again,” Vereen said.
Austin Collie returns home
The Patriots welcomed an old face back to the team on Thursday, signing receiver Austin Collie, who had appeared in four games earlier this season. Collie had originally been signed Oct. 3, and caught three passes for 34 yards. He suffered a knee injury against the Steelers Nov. 3, and was released two days later.
Exactly one month after being waived, Collie was back on the practice field, wearing the same No. 10. He was not spotted in the locker room following practice, and did not speak with the media. A spot on the 53-man roster was made available when tight end D.J. Williams was released Wednesday.
Re-signing Collie could be a sign that Aaron Dobson won’t be returning any time soon. The rookie suffered a foot injury against Denver, missed Sunday’s game at Houston, and hasn’t practiced this week. Another rookie receiver, Kenbrell Thompkins, was forced out of Sunday’s game with a hip injury, but has practiced this week.
Brandon Spikes returns
Linebacker Brandon Spikes, who missed Wednesday’s practice because of a non-injury-related reason, was back on the field Thursday, but limited with a knee injury. The only two players to miss the workout — other than Dennard — were offensive lineman Marcus Cannon (ankle) and Dobson . . . The Patriots have split their games with AFC North teams this season. They lost at Cincinnati (13-6), and beat Pittsburgh (55-31). After facing the Browns, they’ll finish their games against that division with a Dec. 22 game at Baltimore . . . The last time the Patriots and Browns met was Nov. 7, 2010. Cleveland won the game, 34-14, and was led by running back Peyton Hillis (184 yards), quarterback Colt McCoy (174 passing yards), and receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (58 yards). None of those three are with the Browns anymore.