Patriots can deal with character concerns


Patriots can deal with character concerns

In 1998, then-Patriots Vice President of Player Personnel Bobby Grier was asked about Marshall wide receiver Randy Moss. Moss had a checkered college career, bouncing from Notre Dame to Florida State, never playing a snap for either team as brawls, weed and a jail stretch landed him in Division 1-AA.

Said Grier, "The guy's an awesome talent. Some people may be willing to give him a chance. I don't think he's the kind of guy that we need to bring in here.''

The scar from the 1996 selection and release of Nebraska hoodlum Christian Peter was still fresh when Grier was asked about Moss. Peter, drafted in the fifth round by the Bill Parcells administration, was let go a week later when his criminal background came to light. The selection of Peter was an embarrassment for ownership; his forced release was an affront to Parcells and the football staff.

As Grier said in the 1998 predraft press conference with the media, "We've learned that some people we don't move down our board; they get moved off our board."

Irony of ironies, Moss was on the Patriots less than a decade later, catching 23 touchdowns.

But Moss came aboard under a far different administration than the reactionary post-Parcells braintrust of Grier and Pete Carroll. Moss was dealt for by Bill Belichick whose personnel gambles and bona fides were well-established by 2007.

The current Patriots are very amenable to rolling the dice on a player with a questionable track record.

They do it with veterans (Moss, Bryan Cox, Ted Washington, Corey Dillon, Donte Stallworth). And they've done it often in the draft. Last year, they took Ryan Mallett in the third round after rumors of drug use and thuggery drove his stock down. In 2010, they took Brandon Spikes and Aaron Hernandez who had weed suspensions on their records. In 2007, they took Brandon Meriweather despite his on-field stomping of FIU players and a little gunplay activity at the U.

Meriweather didn't work out. Most guys do, at least for a spell.

On Thursday, Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio talked about how the team proceeds when scouting prospects with missteps.

"Sometimes you'll find that some of the information is misinformation so you want to make sure you have the correct information on a player," Caserio explained. "There's a lot of street scuttle or road scuttle and sometimes there's no verification of it so it's important for a team to do its own homework on a player and to make the decision they feel comfortable with."

In this draft, the high-profile player with baggage is North Alabama corner Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins has been on a media tour aimed at answering questions and allaying concerns about his arrests and life decisions. He's been convincing. But there's a lot at stake for Jenkins or any player suddenly faced with doubts.

"You have to try to figure out what's real and what's not given whatever the background may be," said Caserio. "There are other avenues you can explore in addition to face-to-face and it's important to have the right information because I think there's a lot of times there's misinformation out there.

"In the end you have to use your judgment, gut instinct and trust that you have all the accurate information, you feel good enough about whatever that is. You can have a conversation with a kid where you call them on something and they lie to your face. Then you have to figure out what's right, what's wrong."

Because of the Patriots' interest in getting premium value for their picks, they will often face the character conundrum.

Players slip to them because other organizations either don't trust the player or don't trust their locker room to rein him in. Or, maybe even more often, those organizations don't have the clout of success that makes them somewhat impervious to criticism.

The Patriots -- generally -- have those things. So they can take risks others may shy from because they've either made them work out in the past or shown a willingness to cut ties when the situation is going bad.

In a week, the decisions will once again face the Patriots. And nobody will be surprised if they take a chance on a risky prospect.

Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32


Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

NEW ORLEANS - Devonta Freeman practically wore out the Superdome turf with one long gain after another, Tevin Coleman wouldn't be denied near the goal line and the New Orleans Saints hardly looked like the team that made an emotional homecoming nearly 10 years ago to the day.

Cheers turned to boos, and many fans filed out early.

Coleman rushed for three touchdowns, Matt Ryan passed for two TDs and Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a score to help the Atlanta Falcons beat the winless New Orleans Saints 45-32 on Monday night.

"It was real fun. Everybody was doing their job and everybody was playing for each other," Coleman said. "Everything clicked, and we got it done. It's a real big win for us to beat this team here."

The game coincided with New Orleans' celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the Saints' memorable return to the Superdome on Sept. 25, 2006, 13 months after Hurricane Katrina. But there would be no reprise of New Orleans' dominant and emotional 23-3 triumph over Atlanta a decade ago.

The Saints' depleted defense struggled to slow Freeman, who rushed for 152 yards and caught five passes for 55 yards. Coleman also was effective in the passing game out of the backfield, with three receptions for 47 yards to go with his 42 yards rushing.

"We have to stop the run better," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "They were over 200 yards in situations where you knew the run was coming, even at the end of the game."

Ryan finished with 240 yards passing for Atlanta (2-1), which did not turn the ball over and moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

Drew Brees put up his usual big numbers - 376 yards and three TDs passing - and hit tight end Coby Fleener seven times for 109 yards and a TD. But Brees' tipped pass that resulted in Jones' TD return early in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons a 45-25 lead that proved too much for New Orleans to overcome.

Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics


Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

BOSTON, Mass. – There’s a long way to go toward a complete resurrection from last season’s misdeeds, but Jimmy Hayes made a nice little statement that he’s learned some lessons in Boston’s preseason debut. The Bruins lost the game, 3-2, in the shootout to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Hayes scored one of the two goals for the Black and Gold as one of the few veterans in a very youthful lineup for Boston.

The Hayes goal was a nice give-and-go with Jake DeBrusk at the end of a nice transition play in the second period, and was the highlight of a night playing on the right wing with DeBrusk and center Austin Czarnik. The score and a team-high four shots on net for Hayes represent a good start for what he hopes is a gigantic rebound season after last year’s disappointment.

Clearly Hayes heard some of the unflattering chatter about him on sports talk radio and otherwise last season, and may even understand how his difficult season in his home city of Boston -- whether he actively expressed it to him or not -- might have been a factor in his buddy Jimmy Vesey ultimately choosing New York over Boston.

It appears the former Boston College standout is looking to change the conversation in Boston. 

“Yeah, sure am. I’ve got a lot to come out here and…[there were] a lot of comments about myself, but I know I’m a good player. I got to this level for a reason,” said Hayes, who dropped from 19 goals and 35 points with the Panthers to 13 goals, 29 points and a career-worst minus-12 for the Bruins last season.

“To be able to play at the NHL level and continue to play at that level on a consistent basis is what I expect out of myself. I do it for myself and our teammates, and to help our team win. I’ll continue moving forward.

“It’s funny being the old guy on the line. It’s nice to see those young guys and see how excited they are, and how excited I am to get back out there. That’s what I said to the guys, they still have the jitters and they still have them for the first preseason game. It shows that these guys want it and it’s been a lot of fun skating with those guys. They’ve got a lot of speed and to keep pushing the pace. Trying to keep up with them has been a lot of fun.”

There is still a long way to go for the 26-year-old winger, and his willingness to stick around the danger areas on Monday night was a welcomed one for a Bruins team that needs his 6-foot-6 body in front of the net. Hayes paid the price with stitches and a fat lip after taking a Dalton Prout high-stick to the mouth in front of the Columbus net that went uncalled on a Bruins PP at the end of the second period.

That’s all part of the big man’s game on the ice, however. It’s also the kind of battle and determined fight that Hayes will need to show much more consistently in his second season with the hometown Bruins if he’s truly looking to bounce-back from last year’s mediocre performance.