For years the Cincinnati Bengals were one of the few teams known to take character risks, even with a derogatory nickname applied to team president Mike Brown as the redeemer. Cedric Benson was arrested multiple times before joining the Bengals and while with the team for alcohol related offenses. Adam Jones' wiki page mostly details the Las Vegas incident with several unrelated legal issues since. Both were significant contributors with the team, helping Cincinnati qualify for the postseason in three of the past four years.
Even Frostee Rucker, now with the Arizona Cardinals, entered the NFL facing two counts of battery and vandalism. Bernard Scott was drafted after multiple several traffic-related incidents. Rey Maualuga checked into the Betty Ford Center in California after pleading guilty to drunk driving in 2010. It wasn't the first time he encountered alcohol-related issues. Leon Hall was charged with a DUI in 2009 and two years before that, teammate Johnathan Joseph was charged with marijuana possession. Starter. Backup. Taking risks on character, through free agency and the NFL draft, poses questions about that character, but they're often forgotten when it applies measurable benefit. Yet since then the Bengals have largely led the league in quiet offseasons recently.
Well, compared to the rest of the league. These are obviously not issues simply related to the Cincinnati Bengals. There have been 15 arrests by NFL players in 2013, according to the San Diego's Union-Tribune database, designed to track arrests by NFL players. And According to Dan Pompei with the National Football Post, minor issues related to character are slowly becoming non-factors when teams examine their respective draft boards.
"In years past, say five years ago, anything negative was determined to be bad character," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome told Dan Pompei. "It was a broader spectrum. It was all lumped in together. Now we look at every situation specifically. Then you have your categories, some you can tolerate."
Even players who fall under the same violation umbrella are being viewed individually. "It’s hard to lump a guy into a category because something happened to him and say there is something wrong with him," Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said. "We need to dig deep into every circumstance, particularly if it’s a talented player who fits us, and then make an individual assessment of the player."
Players with minor drug-related issues, such as the admission of use or failed tests, are being viewed with a focused eye on an individual level, rather than falling into a single caricature. In fact this report suggests that General Managers believe that 60 to 70 percent of all NFL players smoke marijuana.
"With more education for players in their early years, we are seeing fewer barroom brawls, assault on women, things like that," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff told Pomepi. "There still are party issues, marijuana issues and some theft. But in general, there are fewer criminal issues."
However players that show continued issues related to marijuana may face an up-hill battle.
How the player uses marijuana is the key. If he has failed more than ten tests, as Tyrann Matheau reportedly did, "that could affect things," one GM said. But if there are no indications the use was habitual, teams are willing to look the other way. And so are most communities. After all, we live in a country in which marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington.
"Five or ten years ago, a failed drug test or getting arrested for marijuana probably was a no in terms of drafting a kid," Newsome said. "Now I don’t know how many guys haven’t had some experience with it."