The Troubled Ones: Why The Falcons Are Smart To Push For Character

USA TODAY Sports

The bizarre saga of Aaron Hernandez reminds us that character concerns are, in fact, something worth worrying about.

This isn't a hand-wringing piece about athletes gone bad, or a damning post about teams that ignore clear red flags. It's just an article about playing the percentages, which the Falcons are attempting to do by bringing in guys who have clean records through college and into the pros.

Whatever the outcome of Hernandez's particular legal problems at the moment, it's undeniable that he's brought unwanted attention to himself and the team, and there's real potential for the Patriots' investment to go bust. They were widely lauded for getting Hernandez later in the draft than his talent would indicate he should go, but that was based on drug and character concerns. For three seasons, that gamble paid off, but those days could be over.

This is not to suggest that teams shouldn't take chances on players who have some trouble in college. Dez Bryant is an undeniably great wide receiver, to use one example, and sometimes guys who have issues in college and the first year or two of their careers simply grow up and keep their noses clean.

It's also not to say you can't still run into trouble. Michael Turner had his brushes with the law, as did John Abraham and Jonathan Babineaux. Good people, decent people and even lousy people can make it to the NFL with no problems, and "building around character" only goes so far. You can't look into a man's soul, after all.

Still, the Falcons have largely avoided these traps since Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith took over, and that's to their credit. Building a team with character in mind and being very good w

How much stock do you put in character?

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