By: Bob George/BosSports.net
July 13, 2013

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When you make a rule, it has to be three things. It has to be definable, reasonable and enforceable.

So with that, we have been introduced to a new rule for the Patriots in the last few weeks. The rule is:

If you get arrested, you will be released from the team without delay.

Let's examine the tenets of the rule and see if they comply with the three elements of a rule stated in the first sentence.

Definable. You get released if you get arrested. Plain and simple English. Not much chance of misunderstanding. This rule is definitely definable.

Reasonable. Can you do it? In this case, "doing it" means to merely obey the law. Sure, you can. Most lawbreakers understand the law and choose to break it anyway. Don't speed. Don't rob a bank. Don't have sex with a woman against her will. This rule is definitely reasonable.

Enforceable. For those of you out there who teach for a living, stop and pause for a second and ask yourself this question: How consistent am I at enforcing the rules I establish in my classroom? When you make a rule, the body of people who are mandated to obey the rule, either children or grown adults, will test the rule. It is up to the facilitator to enforce the rule, or else the rule is merely meaningless words

Testing rules is a challenge that any teacher, administrator, boss, or pro sports head coach/manager faces every day. In his book Assertive Discipline, Lee Cantor states that for a rule to be properly applied, enforcement must be at least ninety percent. Going back to the question I posed to educators in the previous paragraph, if you answered anything other than "good", it might have an adverse effect on discipline in your classroom. When rules are consistently enforced, good discipline naturally follows. Rule testing needs to be quashed at every turn, and the testing will stop when it is learned that rule enforcement will always follow.

This author would like to thank you for your indulgence after bombarding you with all this teaching rhetoric. Thanks to Alfonzo Dennard, all this now applies to the Patriots, and how they deal with their newest offseason problem will have perhaps more long lasting consequences than the Aaron Hernandez situation which came to a head in June.

If Bill Belichick were to sit down and peruse the first few paragraphs of this article, it would be nice if he would chime in with something along the lines of "Right on!" Now, Bob Kraft may have to do the same and read up on rule enforcement. Because what happened to Dennard has the potential to become a huge problem for the Patriots down the road.

Dennard is now in legal trouble, not to the degree of Hernandez, but enough to make the Patriots stand up and take notice. He was arrested Thursday morning in Lincoln, Nebraska on a DUI charge, and faces jail time in March for previously punching a police officer and possibly more jail time for violation of probation. The Patriots had to release a statement once again over the adverse transgressions of one of their players.

Now, the question comes up. Do the Patriots release Dennard like they did Hernandez?

The Patriots were praised by many for releasing Hernandez the day he was arrested, instead of waiting until Roger Goodell suspended him. If they had waited to release him following a league suspension, they would have enjoyed much more salary cap relief. This is what the Atlanta Falcons did when Michael Vick was arrested on federal charges of running a dog fighting ring. Vick was released after he was suspended, and came back to the NFL later on after paying his debt to society.

But the Patriots acted quickly and released Hernandez 90 minutes after he was arrested. Now, should the Patriots follow suit with Dennard?

Both Hernandez and Dennard are starters and prominent cogs in the Patriot engine on both sides of the ball. Dennard projected to start at cornerback opposite Aqib Talib. Hernandez has been one half of the best tight end tandem in football over the last three seasons. When decisions are made to release players like these, those are decisions that are not made hastily or without some discussion beforehand.

But the bigger issue is, now that the Patriots have "set the bar" with Hernandez, must they follow suit with Dennard? And what becomes of other players who get arrested down the road? If they do not release Dennard, how serious must the crime be before the Patriots say "cut this guy" and "don't cut this guy"? Where do they draw the line?

This is where the "enforceable" element of a rule comes into play. By releasing Hernandez, which is something they absolutely had to do, did they set themselves up for more troubles down the road in rule enforcement, especially if they do not release Dennard if he does some hard time in March?

The hard truth is that most every pro sports team polices itself, it is usually done in private, and its results or ramifications really has little effect on the fans who pay money to come and see them play. When you suspend or release players and the on-field product is affected, then teams have to exercise due prudence in meting out these sorts of punishments. If the Patriots turn into a mediocre or bad team, it might follow that fan support will abate. These issues the Patriots are facing are punishments that could affect the on-field product. Subtracting Hernandez and Dennard from the team makes the Patriots a good bit poorer on the field.

But the players have to be aware of and obedient of such sanctions to where it greatly deters them from getting into more legal troubles going forward. If Dennard is cut for getting busted for DUI, what then if Tom Brady or Vince Wilfork suffers a similar fate? What if Brady runs afoul with a lesser crime but still manages to get busted? If you do for Dennard and not for Brady or Wilfork, does that undermine Belichick's ability to maintain good player discipline?

This is why the Patriots need to be careful before they cut Dennard. They need to set the line on what a player will get released over and then not cross it just because the player is a big star or a future Hall of Famer. Dennard is far from the Mike Haynes-Ty Law-Raymond Clayborn pantheon, but he was projected as a starter at a position of weakness for the Patriots. It is a problem that the Patriots need to meet head on and act accordingly, and most of all, act correctly.

That said, all the Patriots need to stop trying to become the next Cincinnati Bengals or the next Oakland Raiders. The Patriots need not become a team of boy scouts. Tim Tebow should not be the new poster boy of the Patriots or the entire NFL. Bad boys need to be out there. But by "bad", we don't mean criminally bad.

Players need to stay in the heads of the opponent, and stay out of jail.

Follow Bob George on Twitter: @bob_george


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