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Patriots CB Alfonzo Dennard was arrested Thursday on suspicion of DUI, and his "second run-in with the law has put the Patriots in another uncomfortable position," according to Jeff Howe of the BOSTON HERALD. Patriots Owner Robert Kraft earlier this week while addressing the Aaron Hernandez situation "sternly said player evaluations will change, particularly as they relate to matters of off-field conduct." The Patriots "didn't act out of pure emotion yesterday and have continued investigating the matter." However, the team could "choose to take a no-nonsense approach with a repeat offender by outright cutting him." That tactic "would send a strong message to their players after an embarrassing offseason off the field" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/12). In Providence, Jim Donaldson asked, "What is Kraft, having talked just three days ago about 'auditing how we do things,' going to do about Dennard?" After another day in which "yet another Patriots player has been arrested -- a player who already has a conviction on his record -- we'll see what Kraft decides to do about Dennard" (PROVIDENCEJOURNAL.com, 7/11). CSNNE.com's Tom Curran wrote, "We will soon find out if the team has entered a zero tolerance (or close to zero tolerance) zone for players getting themselves into jams." The "humiliation and embarrassment the team has admitted to feeling" about the Hernandez situation "can't mean good things for Dennard" (CSNNE.com, 7/11). NESN.com's Luke Hughes wrote this season is "already looking more and more like an episode of 'Playmakers' by the day, and Dennard's arrest just made matters even worse" (NESN.com, 7/11). In Boston, Michael Whitmer writes Dennard's arrest is the "latest criminal black eye for the Patriots in a tumultuous offseason." Patriots Exec Dir of Media Relations Stacey James said that Kraft was "not in the office on Thursday" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/12).
WORTH THE RISK? In Boston, Christopher Gasper writes the Patriots have "courted character risks in increasing fashion in the name of getting a bargain," but now they are "getting more than they bargained for." The decisions to "bring in red-flag players are coming back and sinking incisors into the team's carefully crafted image" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/12). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote Dennard's arrest is "further proof that the Patriots need to reconsider whether the cost of a risk gone bad is more than the low-round pick used to acquire the player" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 7/11). Meanwhile, ESPN's Adam Schefter said of Dennard, "How somebody could do something like this in light of what has gone on in New England, in light of the warning that these players and executives and coaches receive about what to do during the off-season, is unimaginable" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 7/11).
THE "WAY" OF THE WORLD: SI's Ben Reiter said, "What we're really learning is there is no such thing as 'The Patriots Way.' What they like to say up there in Foxboro -- they're a different sort of organization. They're not. They're the same as every other NFL organization. They're trying to get the biggest, fastest, best players at the best value they can" ("SI Now," SI.com, 7/11). In Boston, Eric Wilbur wrote under the header, "Patriots' Character? Zero." Despite the "tired mantra of the 'Patriot Way,' the Patriots are no different than any other NFL team on the landscape" (BOSTON.com, 7/11). The PROVIDENCE JOURNAL's Donaldson writes Kraft's Patriots, "protectors of 'the Patriot Way,' are looking a lot like the old Oakland Raiders owned by the late Al Davis, whose mantra was: 'Just Win, baby!'" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 7/12). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Clark, Sielski & Clegg detail how the Patriots "lost their way" (WSJ, 7/12). ESPN's Pablo Torre said "The Patriot Way" has been "oversold to the fans and to the media from the very beginning but I don't want to compare a DUI and a homicide" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 7/11).
IMAGE PROBLEMS: In Providence, Bill Reynolds wrote Hernandez' murder charge is "one of the biggest stories in the long history of New England sports." It is "not going away, no matter how much the Patriots want it to." Hernandez currently "is the Patriots' brand, like it or not," at least when it "comes to popular perception" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 7/11). In Orlando, George Diaz wrote, "Nobody could have seen those murder charges coming, but they most certainly could have connected the dots to what constitutes a high-risk pick and walked away like all those other teams." Instead, the Patriots "picked Hernandez, and became complicit in enabling yet another talented athlete flawed in so many other ways" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 7/10). But in Toronto, Cathal Kelly wrote if Hernandez "is guilty, this is on him and his choices." It has "nothing to do with" the NFL or the "milieu of professional sports more generally" (TORONTO STAR, 7/11).
THE BLAME GAME: The PROVIDENCE JOURNAL's Donaldson wrote under the header, "Don't Be Duped By Kraft's Spin On Hernandez." Donaldson: "I never figured Robert Kraft for a dupe. ... Makes you wonder how a guy that gullible ever became a billionaire. Does the Family Kraft do business deals without performing due diligence?" For Kraft to "say his organization had no clue about what sort of guy Hernandez was is simply unbelievable." Patriots fans "shouldn't be so gullible as to be duped by a man who was duped by Aaron Hernandez" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 7/10). In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy wrote, "This is an organization that requires media members to report to 'security command,' then videotapes useless press sessions involving coach Bill Belichick and said reporters. Nothing is left to chance at Gillette Stadium. Duped? Did Belichick ever talk to old pal Urban Meyer about this kid? Did the Patriots speak to any of their own players?" The Patriots "can’t win this one." They are "not responsible for Hernandez’s alleged crime rampage, but at the time they extended his contract the notion that they knew nothing about his associates and activities strains all boundaries of believability" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/11). However, ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "It is crazy to blame the owner of a professional team or the coach of a team for something that escalates into a murder charge. I don't care how much backgrounding you do" ("PTI," ESPN, 7/9).
LOOKING AT THE BIGGER PICTURE: The AP's Jim Litke noted in the past few months, "more than two dozen NFL players and a sprinkling of front-office executives have been arrested for crimes ranging from petty to deadly." But "no matter how bad it looks, remember that's not a crime wave by any fair measure, let alone by league standards." Litke: "Think of it instead as just the cost of doing business. Everybody in the NFL already does. To be fair, any company that employs 9,000 people is bound to have some bad apples" (AP, 7/11).
The Warriors believe the acquisition of F Andre Iguodala puts the team on "new footing, going from a stopping point for middling free agents to a desirable destination among the NBA's most prized players," according to Antonio Gonzalez of the AP. The team for "most of the last two decades" has been one that the "most sought-after free agents have avoided." But Iguodala's interest in joining the Warriors -- he was introduced by the team Thursday after agreeing to a four-year, $48M deal as part of a sign-and-trade -- and the "process of bringing Iguodala to Golden State showed the commitment from both sides." The Warriors entered free agency "with little wiggle room" financially, and it was "almost laughable" that they would be able to sign a marquee player. Warriors GM Bob Myers "never thought the Warriors could make a deal happen" after Iguodala's representation first talked to the team (AP, 7/11). In San Jose, Tim Kawakami writes it has been "no secret" that Warriors co-Owner Joe Lacob's goal since he and Peter Guber bought the team in '10 has been to turn the Warriors "into a shining Northern California version of the glitzy Lakers." While the Warriors are "many championships short of their in-state rivals, this free-agent period was evidence that they are now a destination spot for NBA stars." Lacob said, "I feel it's a relentless kind of approach. I do believe you can improve your team if you really work at it and you are ballsy, if you take a few chances. ... The way we feel about our team now, we're on schedule or maybe ahead of schedule." Kawakami notes this is a "brand-new place for the Warriors." He writes, "Everything is possible, nothing is unreachable, and if things bog down, Lacob and Myers will just go back to work and try to remodel the franchise again" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 7/12).
MYERS' ACTIONS DRAW PRAISE: In Oakland, Monte Poole writes no one in the "resurrected organization has been more effective in such a brief period" than Myers. In just 14 months since becoming GM, he has "cooled what customarily was among the hottest seats" in Bay Area sports. There is "no question the Warriors front office operates as a team, with Lacob's boundless drive setting the tone," but Myers "clearly is more than a cog in the wheel." Poole: "Like Lacob, Myers is getting things done at a pace previously unknown to the organization" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 7/12).
The Indians may have sold out their July 5 game at Progressive Field against the Tigers, but average attendance for the three games from July 7-9 mirror the "season norm of 18,995, which ranks 27th" in MLB, according to Kevin Kleps of CRAIN'S CLEVELAND BUSINESS. This season's average crowd is "down 802 per game from last year, but by the time the summer months conclude, it's a safe assumption that the Tribe should exceed the 20,000 per-game mark in attendance." Indians President Mark Shapiro views the average attendance "as a market correction of sorts." Shapiro said, "If you look at our market size, I'm not sure I'd characterize this as the fans not buying in. I think if you look at the range of 2003, 2004, as the ballpark settled into the maturation, the market settled into the Browns coming back to town, and the town settled into some Fortune 500 companies leaving ... I don't think it's accurate to say the fans haven't bought in." Kleps noted aside from the fact that more fans "would rather watch a game at home on TV than attend an event in person ... a troubling aspect for the Indians has to be their inability to generate big gate numbers for non-Friday games." The July 5 game was the team's first sellout in two years outside of a season opener, and the team's last five Friday night home games "have drawn 161,318 fans." That "represents 19.7% of the Indians' total attendance" (CRAINSCLEVELAND.com, 7/10).
The Garden State Ultras (GSU), a MLS Red Bulls supporter group, have "summarily rejected" an offer from the club of $500 for every game it did not use a profane chant, according to Brian Lewis of the N.Y. POST. The GSU was one of three groups offered the monetary incentive not to chant "You Suck A------." GSU spokesperson Christopher Vidaic in a statement said, "This is our club, our city, our family. We will not be censored, we will not be bought." The other two supporter groups, Viking Army and Empire Supporters Club, could "choose to work with the front office on what appears to be a fait accompli and collect their money, while the GSU would be subject to sanctions." The ESC board has "already stated its support of the team’s effort to rid the stadium of YSA chants." Meanwhile, Real Salt Lake is "facing the same issue, and had no interest in any quid pro quo with its fans, considering ejecting any supporters that failed to comply" (NYPOST.com, 7/11). Red Bulls GM Jerome de Bontin said of the offer, "We were thinking what can we do to make our fans feel more at home in the arena and at [the] same time abide by the code of conduct. The fans are very important to the success of the club and looking at the numbers, how they are organized, what can we do to help them grow the numbers that would be meaningful to them? We need to attract more people to the different supporter groups." He added of former Red Bulls GM Erik Soler, "Maybe my predecessor didn’t pay (attention). But we have to make sure everybody abides by this code of conduct. ... If the club is going to grow and have success, we need them to stop some of the songs and chants we didn’t feel are appropriate" (NYPOST.com, 7/10).
MLS Fire Owner Andrew Hauptman issued an invitation to fans who did not meet FC Barcelona F Lionel Messi at the Messi & Friends exhibition soccer match last Saturday "for a complementary evening of soccer" when the Fire play DC United on July 20, according to Jack McCarthy of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. A Fire spokesperson said that Hauptman "wanted to counter last weekend's disappointment at Soldier Field with a positive soccer experience." Hauptman will "host a pre-game gathering at Toyota Park's Second Star Club" and conduct a tour of Toyota Park. The club already has reached out to a "group of 47 fans who purchased VIP tickets" to the Messi exhibition match. The Fire also announced that any fan "who can show proof of attendance at the Messi game is eligible for half price admission to the July 20 match or an Aug. 7 U.S.Open Cup semifinal" also against DC United at Toyota Park (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/12). The Fire did not have any involvement with the Messi & Friends match (THE DAILY).
PROMOTER TO REFUND TICKET COSTS: The AP reported fans who paid $2,500 for tickets to the Messi game "will be eligible for refunds after the star soccer player failed to show for a promised meet-and-greet after the game. Miami-based promoter Numero 5 Producciones said that Messi's early departure from the game "wasn't Messi's fault, blaming Soldier Field security personnel." But the company Thursday in a statement said that it will "reach out to any VIP package holders who didn't meet Messi 'in order to begin the process for making an appropriate refund'" (AP, 7/11).