It’s said that football doesn’t build character, it reveals it. NFL teams spend an enormous amount of time and money investigating each and every one of their players to make sure they are an ideal fit for their organization both on and off the field. Some teams end up with Peyton Manning, others wind up with Ryan Leaf. The fact of the matter is that it is almost impossible to correctly determine a player’s character, even after he has spent years in the league; Aaron Hernandez is living proof of that.
Having missed the playoffs yet again in 2013, the Buffalo Bills are a team that is looking to shake things up. With an uncertain ownership situation and a second-year quarterback leading the team, the Bills are in a win-now situation. In an effort to create a new type of environment around the organization, the Bills are turning toward players who have a boatload of talent, but also their fair share of character concerns. To get an idea of how many of these type of players the Bills are counting on, one need only look at the headlines involving the team this offseason.
Star defensive tackle Marcell Dareus was arrested in Alabama on drug-related charges, and his legal proceedings could go on for some time. Dareus had other issues at the end of the 2013 season, as coach Doug Marrone benched him for parts of the final two games for violating team rules. Wide receiver Mike Williams, acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this offseason, has a history of behavioral problems, some of them with Marrone when both were at Syracuse. Williams has been in the headlines again recently, as he was set to enter a program that will allow him to avoid misdemeanor charges that stem from an incident with his girlfriend that resulted in $200 worth of damages. Buffalo took risks in the draft as well, selecting offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson in the seventh round. A highly touted recruit coming out of high school, Henderson has had numerous issues with marijuana, but the team showed that it was willing to take a chance on the mammoth offensive lineman.
All three players are supremely talented, but they have let their off-field antics get in the way of their ability to help the team. There is hope for these players, though. Linebacker Kiko Alonso came out of Oregon in last year’s draft with his fair share of character red flags; he answered the questions about his character by finishing second in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting. Alonso is one example of a player the Bills have shown faith in, believing that a mix of both talent and hard work can overcome any perceived character concerns. There is obviously a great deal of risk in investing in so many of these type of players. It’s a bit optimistic to think that every one of them will turn out like Alonso. But if the Bills can get quality play from Williams and Henderson this season and in seasons to come, and if Dareus turns things around, they will have established themselves as an organization that can get the best out of any player they believe in.