More On Talent/Character Balancing
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.
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.
"Work ethic, passion for the game equals character," the 49ers' McCloughan said. "My job is to explain to Coach [Mike] Nolan what [a prospect] brings to the table. Is his work ethic going to cause offseason [workout] problems?"
"Is the guy doing the extra things he needs to do, or is he the first one out of the building at the end of the day?" said Green, director of scouting for ESPN.com's Scouts Inc. "Does the guy like football? I would rather take a player with a little bit of baggage over a player with no heart or [who] doesn't like football.
"More and more, I think you'll see teams become more careful about the kind of player they draft and sign as free agents," Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said at last month's annual league meetings in Orlando, Fla. "No one wants a disruptive situation on his roster. There is too much at stake. Without naming names, we've seen too much of it recently. Teams are getting tired of it."
When asked why, with the better salary-cap situation, San Francisco didn't pursue the free-agent market more aggressively in the offseason, he had a ready, blunt response: "Because, in a lot of cases, those guys are out there for reasons."
As for general draft philosophy, Nolan, no newcomer to the NFL as a former defensive coordinator, said, "There are going to be teams that will take chances and don't put as much value (in character).
"It's the pretty girl thing versus the one who can cook. Looks wear off, and then it's, 'My God, what did I do?"
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