Alfonzo Dennard doesn’t want to screw this up.
It was perfectly set up, and Dennard blew it. He cost himself a lot of money yet still fell into an almost perfect situation.
Certainly Dennard is more talented than when he was selected, but as a seventh-round pick, Dennard’s back is against the wall. Teams cut seventh-round picks with no regrets.
He has little room for error.
Dennard was hard at work at Patriots training camp until a hamstring injury sidelined him. Certainly he’s anxious to get back out on the field because he has a lot to prove. He doesn’t have a spot on the roster. Dennard has to take one from someone.
Dennard isn’t supposed to be in New England right now, but he only has himself to blame. After an impressive career at Nebraska, Dennard was a projected late-first/early-second-round pick.
But five days before the 2012 NFL draft, Dennard was arrested for allegedly assaulting a Lincoln, Nebraska police officer. According to an NFL.com report, Dennard pushed and punched an officer in the head as police tried to break up an altercation between Dennard and another man outside a bar at 2 a.m.
Even though Dennard was never in trouble before, the timing of the arrest dropped him to the seventh round, costing him hundreds of thousands of dollars. New England rescued Dennard from his free fall with the 224th pick.
If Dennard has another transgression, he could be looking for work elsewhere. He’s a low-risk/high-reward selection. The Patriots won’t miss a seventh-round pick that doesn’t pan out.
Redemption on the field is possible. All Dennard has to do is look around the locker room for inspiration.
TE Aaron Hernandez suffered a draft fall to the fourth round for a positive drug test in college. Now he’s half of the best tight end tandem in the league. And QB Ryan Mallett has a first-round arm, but immaturity dropped him to the third round. Mallett is now maturing while learning from reigning MVP QB Tom Brady about how to become a professional on and off the field.
Dennard has to beat out enough of the eight other cornerbacks currently in camp to make the team. It’s won’t be an easy task, but the good news is New England’s pass defense was ranked 31st in the NFL last year. Dennard should have a very good chance to make the Patriots.
And he should learn how to become a great cornerback. Dennard can turn to Devin McCourty and ask him about how to play up to his potential. Kyle Arrington is an example of how far hard work and never giving up can take a player, even when you're not as talented as your peers.
McCourty and Arrington took turns leading the team in interceptions with seven (McCourty in 2010, Arrington in 2011). It's hard enough to find one mentor with such an accomplishment. Dennard has two mentors with very different paths. If their stories don’t humble Dennard and propel him to succeed, he will have no one to blame but himself.
A couple of weeks into training camp, Dennard seems to be getting it. The secondary as a whole got off to a slow start, but their play is improving.
The same can be said for Dennard. According to the Boston Globe’s Greg A. Bedard, Dennard had a top play during camp. He broke up a deep pass by Brady intended for WR Jabar Gaffney on July 27th.
Unfortunately, Dennard injured his hamstring later in the day after colliding with fullback Spencer Larsen. Dennard has been sidelined since.
For now, Dennard waits for his hamstring to heal. He can’t get back on the field soon enough. He has some ground to gain on his teammates.
Alfonzo Dennard doesn’t want this great opportunity to get away from him.
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