NFL news roundup: League mandates leg pads, Patriots release statement on Dennard DUI

Jared Wickerham

Check out Thursday's NFL roundup for more on the NFL's latest safety mandate and yet another off-field headache for the Patriots. Also inside: More on Josh Brent's status, Morgan Burnett's contract, and Joe Flacco's younger brother.

The NFL will be cracking down on players who don't like to wear knee and thigh pads. Starting with the 2013 season, players who don't wear protection will be removed from games and forced to stand on the sideline until they have put on the proper gear. Failure to comply could also result in a fine.

The NFL mandated padding from 1979 to 1994, at which point the league changed the rules to make leg protection optional. Many players decided to shed the padding because they thought it was too bulky and uncomfortable. Players like Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Tiquan Underwood played without knee or thigh pads last season, risking potential harm for better mobility. Don't expect Underwood to revolt, however. Via USA Today:

"As a player, you always want to be comfortable," Underwood said. "As long as you can find a pair that's comfortable, (and) it doesn't affect your play, (then) we're all for it."

Thankfully players, football pads have only gotten lighter and more effective in recent years.

Patriots release statement on Alfonzo Dennard arrest

New England Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence Thursday. Later in the day, the Patriots released their response:

"The New England Patriots are extremely disappointed to learn of Alfonzo Dennard's arrest. We take this matter very seriously and are working to get more information on the incident."

Dennard has run afoul of the law in the past. Five days before the 2012 NFL Draft, he was arrested for assault of a police officer and subsequently fell to the Patriots in the seventh round. There is no word yet how the Patriots will handle their latest off-field player problem.

NFL to decide Josh Brent's playing status

The NFL is expected to determine Josh Brent's playing status before the Dallas Cowboys open training camp next week. Brent is still on the Cowboys' roster while he awaits trial after being charged with intoxication manslaughter as the driver in a car accident that killed friend and teammate Jerry Brown last December.

Commissioner Roger Goodell has the power to suspend Brown before legal proceedings have finished according to the NFL's personal conduct policy, league spokesman Todd Archer told ESPN Dallas. Currently, the Cowboys are preparing as if Brent will not be a part of the team for the 2013 season. Though eligible to practice, Brent did not participate in any of the team's offseason training activities.

Morgan Burnett, Packers working on new contract

Morgan Burnett and the Green Bay Packers are working on a deal that would keep the safety in Wisconsin beyond the 2013 season. Burnett is currently on track to become an unrestricted free agent in 2014, after the final year of his four-year rookie contract comes to an end.

Burnett has evolved into one of the most important pieces of the Packers' defense. He has started 32 straight regular season games, racking up 230 tackles, four forced fumbles and five interceptions over that span. No timetable has been announced for when negotiations are expected to be completed.

Joe Flacco's younger brother to play Division II football

Joe Flacco's 26-year-old younger brother, Mike, is hoping to reinvigorate his athletic career at New Haven University. He has spent the last five years in the Baltimore Orioles' farm system, but after playing in no higher than Double-A ball, Mike Flacco has decided to give tight end a try.

Flacco's goal is to make it to the NFL, just like his Super Bowl winning older brother. He is getting a late start, not to mention the fact that Flacco hasn't played football since high school. He certainly has strong bloodlines, however.

More from SB Nation:

Van Bibber: Stafford is the future, again

Mark Sanchez: "I'm going to win" starting job

The truth about the Panthers' read option

Antrel Rolle: "There are no switches in football"

"Severe" punishment expected for Denver execs

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