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Stlrs4Life
04-22-2006, 12:59 PM
Teams more diligent in assessing players' character
By Greg Garber
ESPN.com

Marcus Vick throws a better ball than his older brother Michael, the Atlanta Falcons' star. He isn't quite as quick -- but, then again, very few humans are. They played the same position at the same school, quarterback at Virginia Tech, and left college at precisely the same size: 6 feet, 215 pounds.

But, while Michael was the first overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft, there is a good chance Marcus won't be taken on the first day.

A series of brushes with the law and poor decisions -- from the alleged possession of marijuana to charges of sex with a minor (later acquitted), the alleged brandishing of a gun and the memorable (and intentional) stomping on the leg of Louisville defensive end Elvis Dumervil during the 2006 Gator Bowl -- led to Marcus' dismissal from Virginia Tech in January.

As a result, NFL personnel experts project him to fall at least to the fourth round and, more likely, beyond. A significant number of teams say they have removed him from their draft board entirely.

Rick Spielman, former general manager of the Miami Dolphins, who also evaluated college talent for Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions, saw Vick play this season against West Virginia.


Marcus Vick is undoubtedly talented, but brings a lot of baggage to the table.

"He has a lot of talent," said Spielman, now an ESPN Insider. "But at that position, the player is the leader of your football team and has to set the tone, an example. If he's not doing things the right way off the field, how can you expect the team to follow him? He flipped off the fans at West Virginia -- that's not how you lead."

Emotion can be a positive factor on the playing field, but the opposite is also true.

"I'm trying to show the kind of person I am, you know, show the world that I'm not the person some people make me out to be," Vick said in his defense at the scouting combine in February. "[It's like I'm] some kind of bad guy, like the villain."

If Vick had made fewer off-field headlines and spent more time on the gridiron, he might well have been a late first-round draft choice. As such, he would have been in line for a five-year contract worth as much as $15 million, including a $3 million to $4 million signing bonus. Now, he's looking at something like a $200,000 signing bonus and an annual contract in the same neighborhood.

The difference between Marcus and Michael Vick? In a word, character.

Defined loosely as moral or ethical strength, character has never mattered more to those who assess college football players. It is a complicated element that encompasses not only a player's body of work on the field, but his police record (if applicable), work ethic, sense of team and passion for the game.

This year's NFL draft, April 29-30 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, will feature some difficult but compelling character decisions. In the past, some NFL teams have paid lip service to the importance of character, but with the annual salary cap now past $100 million, successful teams go out of their way to do their due diligence.

The New England Patriots won three of four Super Bowls by seeking athletes who were willing to subjugate themselves for the good of the team; the selflessness of two-way player Troy Brown is a good example. The Pittsburgh Steelers, who place a similar premium on character, captured this year's Super Bowl title in Detroit.

"It's always important to get good people as well as good players," Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert said. "From the Steelers' point of view, from top to bottom, ownership demands that character is a big factor in this organization."

"You can't lose sight of a guy's physical skills on tape, but even good organizations have been hurt by drafting people whose character is questionable," said Scot McCloughan, the 49ers' vice president of player personnel. "Ninety percent of the time, it will bite you in the ass.

"If we have two guys pretty close, we'll take the guy with less talent that weighs in with more character. Half the grade going into this is: How's the kid wired?"

Guessing Game

Judging character is a wildly subjective proposition. Sometimes, teams get it wrong.

When rumors circulated that University of Pittsburgh quarterback Dan Marino had allegedly abused drugs, he slid to the end of the first round in 1983. Seventeen seasons later, when Marino retired as the game's most prolific passer, no one was questioning his character.

In other instances, though, there is fire where smoke is perceived. The Denver Broncos, defying conventional wisdom, drafted Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett in the third round of last year's draft after he had been out of football for two seasons. He was good-sized (5-11, 230 pounds) and fairly fast (4.55 in the 40-yard dash), but he was dismissed from Ohio State in 2003 after a series of incidents.

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who had experienced spectacular success by drafting lightly regarded running backs Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary and Mike Anderson, felt it was worth the risk. Admitting he made a mistake, Shanahan cut Clarett in training camp.

Shanahan served as the Raiders' head coach in 1988-89 and learned a willingness to gamble from owner Al Davis, a self-styled outsider in the elite men's club that is the NFL. The Raiders have long prized talent over character in building teams. First-round choices Todd Marinovich (1991), Darrell Russell (1997) and Sebastian Janikowski (2000) at the very least raised some questions before their respective drafts and encountered brushes with the law as pros. Russell, whose NFL career was plagued with a string of incidents, including rape charges in 2002, died in a high-speed car crash in December.

It was Davis who traded for wide receiver Randy Moss -- passed over by several teams in the 1998 draft because of character concerns -- last year after seven turbulent, albeit statistically successful, seasons in Minnesota.

The Cincinnati Bengals, who have one of the smallest scouting staffs in the league, also have routinely ignored character as a measuring stick. It has hurt them over the years, particularly in the case of some of their high-profile first-round choices -- defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson and wide receiver Peter Warrick, to mention two.
With the stakes so high in the draft -- if one in seven draft choices is a failure, it can have a profound effect on the roster -- teams spend an extraordinary amount of time and money in pursuit of character references.



Teams with a large veteran contingent or a strong-willed head coach seem more willing to take chances with questionable character. That was definitely the case when the Broncos took Clarett and Minnesota chose Moss.

Yet, it's not just the teams that find themselves concerned with the character issues throughout the draft process.

Long before he began representing some of the marquee players in the league, including Eli Manning and seven other starting quarterbacks, agent Tom Condon was less than selective when seeking clients.

"Early on, we were just taking whatever players we could get," said Condon, who played guard for the Kansas City Chiefs for 11 seasons. "The two characteristics that determine success are intelligence and character. Now, it's a big factor for us.

"As I look through our last few classes of players, you could take virtually any of those guys home and be proud. It makes life so much easier. They're attractive to people in terms of marketing dollars, and later they can move more easily into the broadcast booth."

For the Steelers' Colbert, character will remain a draft key.

"The best-case scenario," he said, "is a good player with impeccable character. That means you have no concerns. Next level, you have one incident or a personality trait that raises concern. The guys with a couple of incidents that suggest a pattern are the ones you stay away from."

This year's draft has players who fit all those descriptions. Here are a few burdened by the baggage of off-field issues that will create some tension during draft weekend:

? Oklahoma offensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek
An interesting case study.

Dvoracek was stripped of his captaincy and missed 10 games in 2004 after he got into a fight in a bar in Norman, Okla. He was reinstated for 2005 after undergoing anger-management and alcohol-related counseling. In Dvoracek's request for a medical waiver, he admitted he was an alcoholic.

Scouts say Dvoracek -- an academic achiever who produced one of the very highest scores on the Wonderlic test at the combine -- has second-round talent but will probably drop into the third round.

That said, the fact that Dvoracek has shown signs of maturity by staying out of trouble once reinstated to the team should keep him from sliding too far.

? USC offensive tackle Winston Justice
A 6-6, 311-pound specimen, Justice was suspended for the 2004 season after he and some friends pulled a fake but real-looking gun on a USC student.

"I'm always going to be sorry about it," Justice said. "But it's in the past. I'm trying to live day by day to show people that I am a good-character guy."

Justice, who protected Matt Leinart's blind side, is projected to be the second tackle taken -- behind D'Brickashaw Ferguson of Virginia -- going as high as the No. 8 pick, but no lower than the Eagles' No. 14 overall choice.

? It's always important to get good people as well as good players. From the Steelers' point of view, from top to bottom, ownership demands that character is a big factor in this organization.?
?Kevin Colbert, the Steelers' director of football operations






Makes you wonder about teams. See Baltimore also.

SID
04-22-2006, 01:53 PM
Im glad they ignore Character, its great watching them bring in "quality players" only to get burned.

RoethlisBURGHer
04-22-2006, 03:38 PM
This is why the Steelers are respected and teams like the Ravens,Bengals,and the Raiders aren't.

83-Steelers-43
04-22-2006, 04:06 PM
This doesn't come as much of surprise but an interesting read nonetheless. If you take a stroll to the "Blast Furnace" you can see the fans are no different. Makes sense I guess?

Suitanim
04-22-2006, 07:18 PM
That's part of the reason I love being a Steelers fan. Good article.

Stlrs4Life
04-23-2006, 11:08 AM
In reality though. I think this might change since Marvin Lewis is there.

tony hipchest
04-23-2006, 02:11 PM
In reality though. I think this might change since Marvin Lewis is there.pollock and henry were both problem children. lewis thinks he can cure them.

CantStop85
04-23-2006, 03:23 PM
pollock and henry were both problem children. lewis thinks he can cure them.
David Pollack? Yeah right.

You mean Odell Thurman?

tony hipchest
04-23-2006, 03:49 PM
David Pollack? Yeah right.

You mean Odell Thurman?

yeah, my bad i get them 2 mixed up like the 2 marcus defenders drafted for dallas last year, and tebucky jones and terell buckley

CantStop85
04-23-2006, 06:34 PM
yeah, my bad i get them 2 mixed up like the 2 marcus defenders drafted for dallas last year, and tebucky jones and terell buckley
Understandable I guess since both went to Georgia and both were drafted by the Bengals.

I think Odell's character issues are going to be a non-issue in the pros, but Chris Henry's on the wrong path right now.

silver & black
04-23-2006, 06:56 PM
This is why the Steelers are respected and teams like the Ravens,Bengals,and the Raiders aren't.
I agree with you, somewhat. The Raiders are known for taking misfits and malcontents from other teams that otherwise, wouldn't have had success anywhere else in the NFL. Players that don't work out with other teams, or, that are just difficult to deal with, are not the same thing as social misfits and trouble makers. Please, don't lable the Raiders organisation as a home for convicts and fellons... it simply isn't true.

I seem to remember a fellow by the name of Bam Morris.............................. I'm not throwing stones... I'm just saying.

MasterOfPuppets
04-23-2006, 07:02 PM
I agree with you, somewhat. The Raiders are known for taking misfits and malcontents from other teams that otherwise, wouldn't have had success anywhere else in the NFL. Players that don't work out with other teams, or, that are just difficult to deal with, are not the same thing as social misfits and trouble makers. Please, don't lable the Raiders organisation as a home for convicts and fellons... it simply isn't true.

I seem to remember a fellow by the name of Bam Morris.............................. I'm not throwing stones... I'm just saying.
and bam was promptly shown the door.

silver & black
04-23-2006, 07:41 PM
That's true. But, my point was, the Raiders do not knowingly sign players that are known to have legal problems in the community.

I understand what the Raiders' public image is... largely due to the media and their pursuit of headlines.

No team in the NFL is immune to the type of personalities that are cropping up these days... not even the Steelers. I fear it will only get worse in the future, as society has an even larger lapse in morality, and what is acceptable behaviour.

MasterOfPuppets
04-24-2006, 01:37 AM
That's true. But, my point was, the Raiders do not knowingly sign players that are known to have legal problems in the community.

I understand what the Raiders' public image is... largely due to the media and their pursuit of headlines.

No team in the NFL is immune to the type of personalities that are cropping up these days... not even the Steelers. I fear it will only get worse in the future, as society has an even larger lapse in morality, and what is acceptable behaviour.
lol...they not only sign em,they draft them....

In August 1998, he got into a fight outside of a Tallahassee bar. Janikowski was charged with failure to leave the premises and pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor offense.

The night after a season-ending win over rival Florida, Janikowski got into another fight at a local bar. This time he was charged with battery.


In January 2000, Janikowski was partying with a group of friends when his roommate was arrested at a nightclub. Janikowski approached the arresting officer and asked how much it would take to let his friend go. He was arrested for attempting to bribe an officer, a charge that carried a $5,000 fine, up to five years in prison, and possible deportation. Janikowski claimed that he thought he could pay a fine to have his friend released, the officer interpreted the action as an attempted bribe.[1].


Janikowski was acquitted of his bribery charge in June 2000. He had testified on his own behalf, stating that he was simply trying to pay his friend's fine and not bribe the arresting officer. Just eight days after his acquittal, Janikowski and two friends were arrested in Tallahassee on suspicion of felony possession of the designer drug GHB, also known as the date rape drug. Once again, he faced prison time or deportation if convicted. He was acquitted of all charges in April 2001[2].

Janikowski, who earned a reputation for partying at Florida State, was charged with DUI on October 2, 2002 and given three years' probation after pleading no contest. Less than a year later, he was arrested after a fight at a Walnut Creek, California restaurant. The case was later dropped due to insufficient evidence.

83-Steelers-43
04-24-2006, 10:28 AM
and bam was promptly shown the door.

Bingo.

silver & black
04-24-2006, 07:18 PM
lol...they not only sign em,they draft them....

In August 1998, he got into a fight outside of a Tallahassee bar. Janikowski was charged with failure to leave the premises and pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor offense.

The night after a season-ending win over rival Florida, Janikowski got into another fight at a local bar. This time he was charged with battery.


In January 2000, Janikowski was partying with a group of friends when his roommate was arrested at a nightclub. Janikowski approached the arresting officer and asked how much it would take to let his friend go. He was arrested for attempting to bribe an officer, a charge that carried a $5,000 fine, up to five years in prison, and possible deportation. Janikowski claimed that he thought he could pay a fine to have his friend released, the officer interpreted the action as an attempted bribe.[1].


Janikowski was acquitted of his bribery charge in June 2000. He had testified on his own behalf, stating that he was simply trying to pay his friend's fine and not bribe the arresting officer. Just eight days after his acquittal, Janikowski and two friends were arrested in Tallahassee on suspicion of felony possession of the designer drug GHB, also known as the date rape drug. Once again, he faced prison time or deportation if convicted. He was acquitted of all charges in April 2001[2].

Janikowski, who earned a reputation for partying at Florida State, was charged with DUI on October 2, 2002 and given three years' probation after pleading no contest. Less than a year later, he was arrested after a fight at a Walnut Creek, California restaurant. The case was later dropped due to insufficient evidence.

I was aware of all of that. Like I said, you can find that on any team. Just because Morris was shown the door doesn't change the fact that it happened, or will not happen again in the future. ALL teams are susceptible to it these days.

tony hipchest
04-24-2006, 07:28 PM
. ALL teams are susceptible to it these days.

except the steelers, since bam morris (what 10-11 years?)

MasterOfPuppets
04-24-2006, 07:50 PM
I was aware of all of that. Like I said, you can find that on any team. Just because Morris was shown the door doesn't change the fact that it happened, or will not happen again in the future. ALL teams are susceptible to it these days.
well of course a team doesn't have the players on house arrest,so problems do happen. but the whole point of this thread is how teams respond to problem players. the steelers simply don't tolerate them.while other teams look the other way.thats the difference between having character and not.

83-Steelers-43
05-18-2006, 05:49 PM
Who's bad? They are
By Dan Pompei - SportingNews


Thankfully, I can leave the job of separating the saints from sinners to a higher power.

NFL teams aren't as fortunate. They have to judge the character of every player entering the draft -- which can be a complex task, an impossible task in some cases. Teams draw the line in different places. Some teams draw the line with permanent marker; others draw it with pencil.

Teams such as the Bengals have taken chances on players others would have nothing to do with. A cartoon on profootballtalk.com portrayed the Bengals' stripes as jail stripes. I asked coach Marvin Lewis whether he is concerned about the how the team is perceived. "The team's image is a concern," he says. "There's no question about that."

In fact, three days before the draft, Lewis made a point of saying the Bengals would pay more attention to character issues this year. He says the team took players off its board who had failed drug tests, such as defensive tackle Claude Wroten, as well as players who had faced gun charges. Lewis also says the Bengals had no interest in players they perceived as having poor work ethics.

Lewis is a good man who wants to do the right thing. He's not a win-at-all-costs coach. But he has not affected the Bengals' longstanding and ignominious tradition of drafting players with questionable pasts. Cincinnati drafted three players -- defensive end Frostee Rucker, linebacker A.J. Nicholson and receiver Reggie McNeal -- who were off one team's board because of character concerns and signed a fourth, fullback Naufahu Tahi, as an undrafted free agent.

Look, I believe in forgiveness and second chances, and I realize a lot of kids do stupid things and become fine adults. But when a team takes a player off its draft board, it usually is for sound reasons; no club wants to eliminate a player from consideration unless it absolutely has to. Often, the allegations or charges that have surfaced are only the fin of the shark.

Rucker and Nicholson were downgraded on the Bengals' draft board because of character concerns, and Lewis points out they were not chosen in the first two rounds. Rucker was accused of sexual assault and pleaded guilty to a reduced charge; Nicholson was suspended for a game by Florida State after he was accused of sexual assault. Those weren't the only incidents that scared some teams away from Rucker and Nicholson.

Lewis says the Bengals did not downgrade McNeal. "I don't see how you can consider Reggie a character risk," he says. Other teams' concerns with McNeal were less about citizenship than about his work ethic and willingness to conform. From that standpoint, Lewis points out it's unfair to lump McNeal into the same category with players who have been charged with crimes.

The Bengals took another player with a history of being difficult to control last year and got mixed results. Linebacker Odell Thurman played wonderfully as a rookie but gave Lewis a few headaches in the process. Sources say he was fined close to $90,000 over the course of the season for various violations of team rules, though Lewis refused to confirm that.

Receiver Chris Henry, from the same draft class, also caused waves. Henry was busted for marijuana possession and charged with waving a stolen gun at a crowd of people. He has pleaded not guilty to the felony gun charge and is awaiting trial on that incident. "Chris Henry did not have a marijuana problem or a gun problem in college," Lewis says. "If he had, he wouldn't be here."

Some teams knew enough about Henry and Thurman to take them off their boards. My suspicion is the Bengals don't gather as much intelligence on players as some teams. They have some fine evaluators, but their scouting staff is the NFL's smallest. Lewis says the size of the staff is not an issue.

It's possible the Bengals don't spend as much money on private investigations of players with questionable pasts. Asked how the team approaches such circumstances, Lewis says, "You have to investigate, but it's not proper for the team to talk about what you do. That's kind of our business."

Perhaps the Bengals need to take a harder look at how they do their business in regard to character risks.

tony hipchest
05-18-2006, 05:57 PM
"Lewis says the size of the staff is not an issue." :jerkit:

with hanging chad johnson manuvering the stick, how can they go wrong? :rolleyes:

"bengals", "gather", and "intelligence" just dont belong in the same sentence.

CantStop85
05-18-2006, 05:58 PM
Who's bad? They are
By Dan Pompei - SportingNews


Thankfully, I can leave the job of separating the saints from sinners to a higher power.

NFL teams aren't as fortunate. They have to judge the character of every player entering the draft -- which can be a complex task, an impossible task in some cases. Teams draw the line in different places. Some teams draw the line with permanent marker; others draw it with pencil.

Teams such as the Bengals have taken chances on players others would have nothing to do with. A cartoon on profootballtalk.com portrayed the Bengals' stripes as jail stripes. I asked coach Marvin Lewis whether he is concerned about the how the team is perceived. "The team's image is a concern," he says. "There's no question about that."

In fact, three days before the draft, Lewis made a point of saying the Bengals would pay more attention to character issues this year. He says the team took players off its board who had failed drug tests, such as defensive tackle Claude Wroten, as well as players who had faced gun charges. Lewis also says the Bengals had no interest in players they perceived as having poor work ethics.

Lewis is a good man who wants to do the right thing. He's not a win-at-all-costs coach. But he has not affected the Bengals' longstanding and ignominious tradition of drafting players with questionable pasts. Cincinnati drafted three players -- defensive end Frostee Rucker, linebacker A.J. Nicholson and receiver Reggie McNeal -- who were off one team's board because of character concerns and signed a fourth, fullback Naufahu Tahi, as an undrafted free agent.

Look, I believe in forgiveness and second chances, and I realize a lot of kids do stupid things and become fine adults. But when a team takes a player off its draft board, it usually is for sound reasons; no club wants to eliminate a player from consideration unless it absolutely has to. Often, the allegations or charges that have surfaced are only the fin of the shark.

Rucker and Nicholson were downgraded on the Bengals' draft board because of character concerns, and Lewis points out they were not chosen in the first two rounds. Rucker was accused of sexual assault and pleaded guilty to a reduced charge; Nicholson was suspended for a game by Florida State after he was accused of sexual assault. Those weren't the only incidents that scared some teams away from Rucker and Nicholson.

Lewis says the Bengals did not downgrade McNeal. "I don't see how you can consider Reggie a character risk," he says. Other teams' concerns with McNeal were less about citizenship than about his work ethic and willingness to conform. From that standpoint, Lewis points out it's unfair to lump McNeal into the same category with players who have been charged with crimes.

The Bengals took another player with a history of being difficult to control last year and got mixed results. Linebacker Odell Thurman played wonderfully as a rookie but gave Lewis a few headaches in the process. Sources say he was fined close to $90,000 over the course of the season for various violations of team rules, though Lewis refused to confirm that.

Receiver Chris Henry, from the same draft class, also caused waves. Henry was busted for marijuana possession and charged with waving a stolen gun at a crowd of people. He has pleaded not guilty to the felony gun charge and is awaiting trial on that incident. "Chris Henry did not have a marijuana problem or a gun problem in college," Lewis says. "If he had, he wouldn't be here."

Some teams knew enough about Henry and Thurman to take them off their boards. My suspicion is the Bengals don't gather as much intelligence on players as some teams. They have some fine evaluators, but their scouting staff is the NFL's smallest. Lewis says the size of the staff is not an issue.

It's possible the Bengals don't spend as much money on private investigations of players with questionable pasts. Asked how the team approaches such circumstances, Lewis says, "You have to investigate, but it's not proper for the team to talk about what you do. That's kind of our business."

Perhaps the Bengals need to take a harder look at how they do their business in regard to character risks.
Picking up players with character issues is usually either a hit (Odell Thurman) or miss (Chris Henry) situation. High-risk, high-reward.

83-Steelers-43
05-18-2006, 06:00 PM
It's a beautiful thing when you draft players with zero character issues and either stay competitive in your division for long periods of time or win Super Bowls. No-risk, high-reward.

"He's not a win-at-all-costs coach." - I'm starting to doubt that notion.

tony hipchest
05-18-2006, 06:06 PM
"He's not a win-at-all-costs coach." - I'm starting to doubt that notion.

*gasp* blasphemy! lewis is a guru/genius who practically helped brian billick invent the defensive aspects of football.

83-Steelers-43
05-19-2006, 04:52 PM
*gasp* blasphemy! lewis is a guru/genius who practically helped brian billick invent the defensive aspects of football.

LOL, how could I?:dang: