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Alfonzo Dennard

New England Patriots cornerback and former Husker Alfonzo Dennard walks outside the Lancaster County courthouse in Lincoln on Thursday, April 11, 2013, after being sentenced for assaulting a police officer.

Twelve days before punching a cop in 2012, Alfonzo Dennard talked about his prospects and what mattered in his life.

“Character is very important," he said in a 91-second promotional video three weeks before the NFL draft. "If you have good character, it can take you a long way. If you have bad character, people start questioning.”

The questions flew Thursday after the former Nebraska cornerback and current NFL defensive back for the New England Patriots was arrested for driving under the influence while on probation.

Dennard, 23, was driving west on Normal Boulevard in a 2011 Honda Accord just before 2 a.m. Thursday when a sergeant pulled him over near 52nd Street because he was straddling lanes, Lincoln Police Officer Katie Flood said.

The sergeant arrested Dennard, who is on probation for punching a police officer in April 2012, on suspicion of DUI, refusing a chemical test and straddling lanes.

Dennard, who was taken to detox but not jailed, blew too softly during an alcohol breath test, even though the sergeant told him twice to blow hard into the machine, Flood said.

In April, a Lancaster County district judge sentenced Dennard to two years of probation for assaulting a Lincoln police officer and resisting arrest in downtown Lincoln days before he was drafted into the NFL.

Before that, Russ Lande, a draft expert for GM Jr Scouting and The Sporting News, believed a team would draft Dennard in the second or third round.

In the end, he tumbled to the seventh round, where the Patriots took him with the 224th overall pick after Husker Coach Bo Pelini gave a strong recommendation to Patriots Coach Bill Belichick.

Dennard played 10 games in his rookie season and made 35 tackles and three interceptions. His performance earned him a starting spot for the Patriots.

"The New England Patriots are extremely disappointed to learn of Alfonzo Dennard's arrest," the team said in a statement issued Thursday. "We take this matter very seriously and are working to get more information on the incident."

Pundits started questioning whether Thursday's arrest would lead to the Patriots cutting Dennard.

“Although some might view it as an extreme step, this is a time -- in the wake of the Hernandez murder charge -- when the club is probably extra-sensitive to any off-field issues with its players,” wrote Mike Reiss, ESPN's Patriots reporter in Boston.

“Nothing would be a surprise,” he added.

Last month, prosecutors charged Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez with first-degree murder in the shooting death June 17 of Odin L. Lloyd in Massachusetts. Hernandez was cut from the team.

Dennard could face disciplinary action from the league. NFL officials will look at Dennard's DUI arrest, spokesman Greg Aiello said in an article on the NFL's website.

The league "will not speculate on an outcome until all the facts are known," he said.

On top of probation for hitting the Lincoln officer, Lancaster County District Judge Stephanie Stacy also gave Dennard 30 days in jail -- to start March 31, 2014 -- and 100 hours of community service that must be law enforcement-related.

At the time, Dennard's attorney made it clear he would ask that the jail time be waived if Dennard did well on probation.

Stacy ordered Dennard not to break any laws and refrain from "disorderly conduct or acts injurious to others."

She forbade him from taking drugs not prescribed by a doctor but allowed him to drink alcohol. She also ordered him to take a drug test if a police officer asked for it but crossed out “alcoholic beverages” in regard to such a test.

Thursday's incident likely will result in a probation violation.

Reach Jonathan Edwards at 402-473-7395 or jedwards@journalstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/LJSedwards.

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