PATRIOT GAMES: The Patriots looked like they were willing to take the hit and do what was right when it came to Aaron Hernandez, but their reaction to Alfonzo Dennard's recent run-in with the law changes all that. (Photos courtesy Getty Images/Illustration by Bryan Lienech)

PATRIOT GAMES: The Patriots looked like they were willing to take the hit and do what was right when it came to Aaron Hernandez, but their reaction to Alfonzo Dennard’s recent run-in with the law changes all that. (Photos courtesy Getty Images/Illustration by Bryan Lienech)

Hey, did you hear about that Patriot that was arrested? No, not Aaron Hernandez. I’m talking about Alfonzo Dennard.

Dennard was picked up early yesterday morning in Lincoln, Nebraska on suspicion of DUI. This is Dennard’s second arrest in a little over a year after he was detained and convicted for felony assault on a police officer during an altercation in April 2012. For that conviction, he will serve 30 days in jail in March of next year.

You know, because when you’re a professional athlete, you get to choose when and where you sit in time out.

So, obviously, if the Patriots released Aaron Hernandez nearly immediately after he was arrested (and so far not convicted of anything, mind you) than surely a convicted felon is no longer with New England as well, right?

THE OTHER FONZ: Alfonzo Dennard is in trouble again. Heyyyy! (Photo courtesy: USATSI)

THE OTHER FONZ: Alfonzo Dennard is in trouble again. Heyyyy! (Photo courtesy: USATSI)

Wrong.

Despite having not one but two run-ins with the law, Alfonzo Dennard remains a Patriot as of this posting. You want to exchange your Dennard jersey (the seven or so of you that have one) for something else? Tough titty, the Patriots aren’t running a program for that. Though, if you really want to, I’m sure you could get your hands on a Hernandez one.

But as head-scratching as that is, there’s this: in the case of the assault on the police officer, Bill Belichick actually wrote a letter to the judge considering Dennard’s sentence on the cornerback’s behalf. The Patriot’s didn’t just not cut him, their head coach actually tried to throw his weight around in an effort to get any disciplinary action minimalized.

Why didn’t you hear about this? Well, I’m guessing news editors decided getting in a fight with a cop isn’t as sexy as murder.

So why is a guy who’s only been indicted looking for work while someone who has been convicted of one crime and expected to be brought up on charges for a second still a Patriot? Quite frankly, it has to do with the number of news cameras that are on.

Releasing Aaron Hernandez was a P.R. stunt. If you thought anything to the contrary, the saga of Alfonzo Dennard is the unbeatable counterargument. There was a week-long build up of TMZ-esque intrigue prior to Hernandez’s arrest, leading every news agency across the country to cover the investigation as if a murder in Massachusetts somehow affected them in Everytown, U.S.A.

And with the spotlight as bright as possible, the Patriots took the opportunity to step up and say, “Hey, look, America! Look how morally superior we are!”

Maybe they saw it as their way to officially put ‘Spygate’ in the past or maybe they just saw the opportunity for some cheap headlines. After all, did news outlets not send reporters to Foxborough in the middle of summer when there’s no football activities going on just to cover the jersey exchange?

The funny thing is it almost worked. We almost forgot about Dennard and the other Patriots who currently have blemishes on their records. We almost forgot that, before ‘Bountygate’, this was the last franchise to be formally punished by the NFL.

They nearly pulled it off, and then Dennard chose to put a few back and get behind the wheel.

A DIFFERENT UNIFORM: Used to seeing him in pads and dawning Patriots Blue, Aaron Hernandez looked very different in court. (Photo courtesy SI)

A DIFFERENT UNIFORM: Used to seeing him in pads and dawning Patriots Blue, Aaron Hernandez looked very different in court. (Photo courtesy SI)

Now the media has an interesting conundrum. Days after they covered the Patriots as the morally upright NFL franchise that did the right thing instead of the easy thing, they must either now report that one of their players has once again been arrested and this time the Patriots did not release him immediately or they must choose to not cover the story altogether.

I’m guessing most of them will opt for the latter.

But if it sounds like I’m singling out the Patriots, I’m not. Or, at least, I’m not trying to. If I had a nickel for every time a franchise took an opportunity like this to shamelessly paint themselves like the Mother Theresa’s of the league, I’d have enough money to personally pay Matthew Stafford his contract extension.

The simple truth is there is no morally upright franchise. The Pittsburgh Steelers, for example, had a longstanding reputation as such, and then they kept a likely rapist and definite egotistical goon as their quarterback but not before shipping Santonio Holmes to the Jets for a little weed.

There’s a risk-reward equation in every one of these decisions. How expendable is the player, how much will his departure hurt the team, and how much good P.R. can we gain from sending them packing? At the end of the day, it’s a business decision, not a moral one.

None of the 32 teams in the NFL has a sound moral compass. For every good thing they’ve done, you can find an equally scummy one to put up beside it.

All the New England Patriots did is make a decision. Was Aaron Hernandez going to be able to play football for them come this fall? Not if a trial was going to begin in July he wasn’t. So what do you do? Do you wait to release him when everyone expects you to, or do you get out ahead of the mess, cut him immediately, make sure everyone sees how your taking a blow to your salary cap just to get rid of a “bad guy”, and come out looking like the good guys.

In that instance, New England made the right call. Whether it was for selfish reasons or not, Aaron Hernandez probably deserved to be issued his pink slip. But what about Dennard? What about the future Patriots that have run-ins with the law? Are they all going to be axed unceremoniously?

Not a chance.

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NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure to give him a follow @bclienesch for NFL updates and other shenanigans!

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