Dennard’s mess comes at a bad time

Either New England Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard messed up by driving drunk or Lincoln, Neb., or the police messed up by accusing him of doing so.

That will be decided in court, but in either case this is probably not the best time to test the Patriots’ patience, what with the Pats having cut their tight end because he got accused of murder.

According to the Lincoln Journal-Star, officers pulled over Dennard at 2 a.m. after spotting him driving in some way they didn’t like. He was taken in on suspicion of drunk driving but declined to provide a breath sample. In Nebraska, the minimum penalty for a first-time DUI conviction is probation that includes a 60-day driver’s license revocation, $500 fine and an ignition interlock system is required to be installed in the driver’s car.

But Dennard, 24, could be facing harsher consequences. Last year he punched a cop, was convicted and sentenced to 30 days in jail and two years probation. A judge allowed an arrangement for him to serve the jail time during the 2014 offseason. Dennard’s probation terms, according to the Journal-Star, included that he not break any laws and refrain from "disorderly conduct or acts injurious to others." The judge permitted him to drink alcohol during his probation term.

On the scale of misbehavior, this is a lot closer to your typical young athlete fare than Aaron Hernandez’s murder trial. It is the kind of stuff NFL teams have gotten good at addressing routinely. Depending how good the player is, it’s typically a "We’ll let the justice system play out" approach, which is fair enough under most circumstances.

It’s just that Dennard may have caught the Patriots at the worst possible time.

He’s a good player, a projected starter, but certainly not someone the Patriots would have a hard time replacing if that’s what they wanted to do. Then again, they might not. He was a steal in the 2012 draft, a star from Nebraska who fell to the seventh round because teams had some concerns about his character.