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  1. #1
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    Rams Follow NFL Lead in Character Commitment

    Monday, May 21, 2007

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Shortly before the Rams’ front office got to work on putting together their draft board and strategy, President of Football Operations Jay Zygmunt took the floor. His message was clear: for as much as 40-yard dash times and tackling statistics will factor into a player’s draft position, character will mean just as much.

    “That set the tone for everyone,” Vice President of Player Personnel Tony Softli said.

    And while the Rams have set about trying to find guys with high character in recent drafts, this year was different. And the added emphasis to drafting character players came from above.

    At the annual league meetings, Commissioner Roger Goodell set forth a revamped conduct policy for all of the league’s players, coaches and employees. At the heart of the matter, it is every player’s job to police his actions and represent himself and the league in a becoming manner.

    If a player doesn’t follow through on that, he is subject to severe and harsh penalties that include long-term suspensions. Tennessee cornerback Pacman Jones was suspended for the 2007 season because of myriad off the field issues and Cincinnati receiver Chris Henry will miss half the season for similar actions.

    Goodell even made it clear that lifetime banishment from the league is a possibility should the punishment fit the crime.

    In other words, while the league has always wanted character players, it’s never been more important for it to be at the top of the list in evaluating and adding talent.

    “The points of emphasis of how you go about putting your team together were very clear, and we’ve always factored in character and those kinds of things,” coach Scott Linehan said.

    Indeed, the Rams went through this year’s NFL Draft without adding a single player to have known character issues. In fact, first-round choice Adam Carriker was a three-time All Big 12 Academic Honor Roll member and second-rounder Brian Leonard won the Draddy Award in 2006 as the nation’s top student-athlete.

    In emphasizing a commitment to character, the Rams were forced to remove some highly regarded prospects from their draft board. In all, the team had eight players that were immediately placed on the “Do Not Draft” board. Those players were not, under any circumstance, to be considered for drafting.

    The Rams would not name names of those they refused to pick, but Linehan indicated that four were chosen, two on the first day and two on the second.

    “They were outstanding football players on film, but they had a number of things that kept them from being on our final board,” Linehan said. “It’s a way of controlling your philosophy and not letting it become emotional and saying, ‘This guy is so fast or so big, or can dominate his position.’ We didn’t let that come into it. It takes the emotion out of it.”

    Linehan credits Softli and the scouting department with formulating an approach to adding character players to the team in face of the changing emphasis from Goodell.

    But Softli said it was a team effort and he has no problems with passing on a potentially more talented player for a guy with talent and character. After all, if something goes awry with a player, it’s easy to point the finger back at the guy who vouched for him.

    “Character has always been big with me coming from Carolina,” Softli said. “When I interviewed here, I told them character is big. I like to get those guys in here because I don’t want you coming back to me saying, ‘Hey, Tony, what about this guy that is now in trouble?’ It eliminates that part of the process.”

    So, how exactly does one evaluate character? While teams are given plenty of chances to meet with players, including the annual NFL Scouting Combine, the Senior Bowl, pro days and pre-draft visits, it is difficult to get a feel for every player on the board.

    Likewise, it can be hard to discern whether a prospect has poor character makeup or he simply made an isolated mistake. But Softli says that is what all of the research is for.

    “There were guys that went off the board this year that deserved to go off the board,” Softli said. “To me, there is no gray area. He either has good character or he doesn’t have good character. That’s the way it ended. Jay set the tone in our meetings and Scott followed and so did I. That’s how we set the board.”

    And though there isn’t a numerical or alphabetical grade that a team can place on a player in terms of character, Softli says it’s up to the scouts to find out as much background about a player as possible. Then, Softli will take that information and look to expound on it with more if possible.

    If indeed there is something in a player’s past, the personnel department will mark it with a yellow flag that serves as an alert. That doesn’t eliminate the player, but it brings him into focus for a more drawn out discussion with the coaching staff. At that point, Linehan serves as the final say on whether the player remains on the board or not.

    With each of their additions in the draft, the Rams did their best to find guys with the combination of talent and character. At the end of the weekend, Linehan was more than happy with the final haul.

    “I feel really good about being able to stand in front of you and tell you that these guys that we added to our football team are guys that we’re all going to be very, very proud of as far as men,” Linehan said. “That’s a real positive.”


  2. #2
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    Re: Rams Follow NFL Lead in Character Commitment

    Kewl, character counts.

    Not that a character cannot have character but probably the more character one has the less of a character he may be. A person with character is to be admired and should make a good tea mate but a character's antics can get old with time.

    By this time in one's life it generally is known if the character a character portrays is simply a caraciture of character or if he can indeed be characterized as having character whether or not he is a character.

    What characterizes character and who does the characterizing? For the most part I would think one characterizes one's self by the amount of character one shows.

    What makes a person characterizable may be a duscussion in and of itself as well what gives one the right to be a characterizer?

    A character can help to keep the team loose and the locker room a fun place but a team needs players with character more than it needs a team of characters. We don't need a team characterized by it's characters but by it's character so I think the Rams are on the right track.
    RnD

    GO RAMS!!

  3. #3
    Keenum's Avatar
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    Re: Rams Follow NFL Lead in Character Commitment

    I think as of right now we have a classy bunch of guys from what I can tell. Leonard Little does have a dark past, but after reading some of the things that has happened since his 2nd DUI, I reallly believe he's come around. Byrd had some bar incident or something last year, but I never heard anything else about that.

  4. #4
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    Re: Rams Follow NFL Lead in Character Commitment

    We don't need a team characterized by it's characters but by it's character so I think the Rams are on the right track. -- RnD

    For sure RnD, for sure. And I'm proud of the team we have right now, say 93-95% of it, its core players and the character they reflect as a whole.

    This tenor about character can be over emphasized as well but, right now ... it is high time that the NFL put its foot down and tighten up the ship towards better and more reputable sailing.

    In this respect I am ever so glad -- and again, proud -- that we have AC and Leonard. GO RAMS! :r

  5. #5
    The Shredder Guest

    Re: Rams Follow NFL Lead in Character Commitment

    Quote Originally Posted by Keenum View Post
    I think as of right now we have a classy bunch of guys from what I can tell. Leonard Little does have a dark past, but after reading some of the things that has happened since his 2nd DUI, I reallly believe he's come around. Byrd had some bar incident or something last year, but I never heard anything else about that.

    He still killed someone. He shouldn't even be playing in this league, he doesn't even deserve his own freedom. It sucks that the victim's husband is (dont know if he still is though) a Rams photographer and has to watch the man that killed his wife play a "game" and make millions while doing it. Stories like this really make me sick.

    Isn't the American legal system great?

  6. #6
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    Re: Rams Follow NFL Lead in Character Commitment

    Oh, brother. :x Alas...

    Shredder, I think we have that one well understood here in the Clan.

  7. #7
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    Re: Rams Follow NFL Lead in Character Commitment

    Quote Originally Posted by The Shredder View Post
    He still killed someone. He shouldn't even be playing in this league, he doesn't even deserve his own freedom. It sucks that the victim's husband is (dont know if he still is though) a Rams photographer and has to watch the man that killed his wife play a "game" and make millions while doing it. Stories like this really make me sick.

    Isn't the American legal system great?
    Because he killed her on purpose...

  8. #8
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    Re: Rams Follow NFL Lead in Character Commitment

    I wonder who the "Do not Draft" eight were?

  9. #9
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    Re: Rams Follow NFL Lead in Character Commitment

    Quote Originally Posted by The Shredder View Post
    He still killed someone. He shouldn't even be playing in this league, he doesn't even deserve his own freedom. It sucks that the victim's husband is (dont know if he still is though) a Rams photographer and has to watch the man that killed his wife play a "game" and make millions while doing it. Stories like this really make me sick.

    Isn't the American legal system great?
    1. He served his sentence. Don't like it? Run for Congress and change the law.
    2. This article is about the push for character under the Linehan administration. Little was drafted by Vermeil.
    3. This topic has been covered over and over again. There's nothing new to be added now.
    4. Let's get back to the actual topic........THE PRIORITY OF CHARACTER UNDER LINEHAN.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

  10. #10
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    Re: Rams Follow NFL Lead in Character Commitment

    Quote Originally Posted by laram0 View Post
    I wonder who the "Do not Draft" eight were?
    That's an excellent question, laram. In fact, it should have its own thread.
    Last edited by HUbison; -05-22-2007 at 10:10 AM.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

  11. #11
    general counsel's Avatar
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    Re: Rams Follow NFL Lead in Character Commitment

    Interesting sense of judgment and justice you have shredder. As hubison pointed out, he served the time and was released. Do you suggest locking everyone up for life who has a fatal drunk driving situation, because if you do, you are going to have an awful lot of people in jail that are currently out walking the streets. Furthermore, plenty of people who intentionally commit murder and other violent crimes are also released. Do you want to lock all of them up for life also? Where do you intend to put them? Who is going to pay for all that?

    I am not defending what little did, but at the end of the day, he had no INTENTION to hurt, let alone kill anyone. It was an accident. Negligence sure. He served time in prison. Leonard Little did not say to himself gee i think i will get in a car and kill someone tonight the way someone that fires a gun at someone does. Leonard did not rape, rob, or murder, which is defined as an intentional killing. I would sure hate to have my entire life judged by the worst mistake i ever made. I guess that you never did anything that you are really ashamed of.

    I dont know about you guys, but back in my college days i sure spent plenty of time behind the wheel of a car after drinking and thank god i was never pulled over or in an accident while under the influence. Leonard did a terrible thing, but its somethat that tens of thousands of americans a year do and before you start calling him a person that doesnt even deserve his freedom, you might want to think about it in that context.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel


  12. #12
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    Re: Rams Follow NFL Lead in Character Commitment

    Agreed, GC. As HUbison said (and I implied in post#6), the LL issue has been covered all over and hopefully, put to rest -- at least concerning this thread. Okay Shredder?

    [BTW, where is this thread? Couldn't find it under Rams Talk]

    I've mentioned before here and elsewhere that I'm very glad/proud we recruited AC and BL this year. Those two young men understand character, even as rookies, and I'm really excited to see their overall contributions to the team as players and as individuals.


    PS: GC, no, I never got behind the wheel of a car DUI (I've never had an alcoholic beverage) but your point is well taken nevertheless. Who knows the number of times I've driven through a late yellow or even a red light at an intersection and not been caught or, worse, not had an accident.

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