Patriots Image Takes Another Hit With Dennard Arrest; How Should Team Respond?
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).