Patriots can deal with character concerns

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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.

Chara ‘feels better’ as he closes in on return, but won’t play in Buffalo

Chara ‘feels better’ as he closes in on return, but won’t play in Buffalo

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Zdeno Chara said he is “feeling better” after going through a full practice with the Bruins, but the captain won’t be making the one game road trip to Buffalo for Saturday afternoon’s matinee game vs. the Sabres. 

Chara was going through line rushes and battle drills with the rest of his teammates while practicing for the second day in a row, but made it clear that his lower body injury hasn’t been cleared for game action yet. 

“It’s day-to-day. It feels better…yeah. But it’s still day-to-day,” said a rather laconic Chara when it came to questions about his injury. “It would feel much better [to play] than it feels [not playing].”

Claude Julien said his 39-year-old defenseman has moved into true “day-to-day” status as he nears a return after missing what will be his sixth game in a row on Saturday afternoon, but that he isn’t quite ready to go just yet.

“[Chara] and [Noel] Acciari won’t be on the trip,” said Julien. “I think [Chara] is getting pretty close. When you see him at practice things are going pretty well for him. I think that the term day-to-day is fitting for him right now. A lot of times when we say day-to-day we don’t know whether it’s going to be two days, three days or even a week. But in his case I would say that day-to-day is really day-to-day now with him.” 

One thing the Bruins can be heartened by is that they’ve managed to survive without Chara: the B’s have gone 2-2-1 and allowed just nine goals in the five games since their No. 1 defenseman went down. They have been able to continue collecting points in sometimes ugly, workmanlike fashion. 

That gives the Bruins the luxury of not rushing their D-man along before he’s ready and gives some of their other defensemen added confidence that they can effectively do the job with or without their 6-foot-9 stopper. 

Slater missing from start of Patriots practice

Slater missing from start of Patriots practice

FOXBORO -- The Patriots were without two key members of their special teams units at Friday's practice. 

Both Matthew Slater (foot) and Jordan Richards (knee) were not spotted at the start of the team's most recent workout. Defensive lineman Woodrow Hamilton (illness) was also missing. 

Hamilton and Richards did not participate in Thursday's practice. Slater was present on Wednesday and Thursday after missing Sunday's game against the Jets. 

The Patriots did have a Gronkowski back on the field Friday, but it wasn't Rob, who was expected to undergo back surgery in Los Angeles. It was fullback Glenn Gronkowski, who has apparently been re-signed to the Patriots practice squad for his fourth go-round on New England's 10-man unit. Practice-squad tight end Kennard Backman, who has not been at Patriots practice since Wednesday, has likely been released in order to make room for Gronkowski.