The Patriots will need to start making contingency plans for the possibility that they could temporarily be without cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.
Dennard was found guilty yesterday of third-degree felonious assault of a police officer and misdemeanor resisting arrest.
After a weeklong trial at Lancaster County District Court in Lincoln, Neb., a 12-person jury deliberated for nearly six hours Tuesday and an hour and a half yesterday before reaching the guilty verdicts. They also found Dennard not guilty of a separate misdemeanor assault charge.
Dennard will be sentenced April 11, and he faces a maximum of six years in jail and $11,000 in fines for the two guilty charges.
Lancaster County attorney Joe Kelly told the Herald they would "probably not make a sentencing recommendation," which he said was standard operating procedure. He said any report that there would be no recommended jail time is inaccurate because there would be no recommendation either way. Kelly also wouldn't comment on any potential negotiations for a plea agreement through the process.
The NFL is investigating the incident to determine any necessary discipline, even though it occurred last April before Dennard was drafted in the seventh round by the Patriots. A league spokesman told the Herald yesterday, "It's a law enforcement matter. We will review the facts under our personal conduct policy."
Dennard was accused of getting into an altercation outside of a bar. He was found guilty of assaulting a police officer who attempted to arrest him afterward. Dennard admitted to resisting arrest during the trial, but he claimed he merely pushed the officer, who alleged Dennard punched him in the face.
The Patriots have not commented on the guilty verdict. Last year, Bill Belichick repeatedly said he was comfortable in drafting Dennard despite the pending legal charges. Dennard, the Big Ten defensive back of the year, was viewed as a potential second-round pick before his arrest. The Patriots passed him over with their first five selections before snagging the Nebraska product in the final round.
Now, Belichick, director of player personnel Nick Caserio and the rest of the front office has to be on high alert at the scouting combine this week in Indianapolis because they can't assume anything with Dennard's sentencing. Dennard, Ras-I Dowling, special teamer Malcolm Williams and safety convert Devin McCourty are the only cornerbacks on the roster, while Aqib Talib, Kyle Arrington, Marquice Cole and Will Allen are free agents.
The Patriots have to determine how to best utilize their five draft picks and available salary cap space to made due at cornerback.
Dennard took a while to progress as a rookie, suffering a hamstring injury in training camp and missing the first four games of the regular season before taking on a situational role that turned into the starting job at right corner to close the season. He finished the year with three interceptions.
The Patriots have until March 4 to decide if they want to use the franchise tag on someone like Talib, and free agency begins March 12. The team will be guessing on Dennard's sentencing and possible league discipline for a month of free agency, but the Pats will have two weeks to map out their draft strategy after the sentencing.
While one portion of Dennard's case came to a close yesterday, the Patriots and their 23-year-old cornerback are eying April 11 as a key date in regard to the 2013 season.
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