Character concerns are certainly a reality for teams in the NFL nowadays with strict personal conduct policies and punishments levied by Commissioner Roger Goodell with no recourse for offenders. Many teams shy away from any potential borderline players as a result in draft NFL Draft and free agency for fear of potentially losing those players due to any misbehavior. For those of us who thought the St. Louis Rams only rolled the dice with one of their first round draft picks in terms of off-field concerns, it turns out that may not be the case.
Recent reports have surfaced that wide receiver Tavon Austin was not as hotly coveted as some may have believed in April’s draft due to concerns over his past. The speedy receiver grew up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the country in inner-city Baltimore, and several teams believed that troubled past would follow him into the league once he came into some newfound money.
According to a story on the team’s website, that may be the case as Austin said:
“Everybody expects a lot of things from you as far as money. Everybody wants to be around you. My phone doesn’t stop ringing now. It feels like they’re counting my bank account now. So that’s probably the hardest thing for me right now, just people. I’ve got a lot of cousins now. The whole (city of) Baltimore is my cousin now. We’re going to just try to keep focused and let my mother and all of them handle it.”
Alec Ogletree was the draftee with a checkered past that many feared as a potential issue for the Rams looking ahead to the upcoming season, but it turns out Austin may have similar concerns. While Ogletree’s issues from a positive drug test to a DUI arrest have all been self-inflicted, Austin’s haunting past is more a product of his environment. This type of problem can be even more difficult to eradicate as has been well documented with several past NFL players having financial troubles soon after leaving the league.
All of this comes up just one year after the Rams selected cornerback Janoris Jenkins who was a player with top 10 ability that slid into the second round due to character concerns of his own. This pegs the Rams as a team that shows blatant disregard for off-field worries under the watch of General Manager Les Snead and Head Coach Jeff Fisher as I have pointed out here previously. While Jenkins managed to stay relatively trouble-free in year one aside from a minor incident prior to the game against the San Francisco 49ers on the road where both he and fellow rookie Chris Givens were suspended for the contest and forced to run the stadium stairs, the concern lingers that a potential slip up may not be too far away.
These previously unrevealed concerns about Austin certainly give pause to what has been a widely lauded move by the Rams to trade up for the playmaking receiver less than one month ago. St. Louis has had a hot hand while rolling the dice on potentially troubled players recently so let’s just hope they don’t come up snake eyes with their investment in the former West Virginia Mountaineer.