The Raiders haven’t had a player on the police blotter in quite some time. They’ve steered clear of off-field issues that have plagued many other teams over the past few seasons, which stands as a point of pride for general manager Reggie McKenzie.
He holds character high on his list of priorities in player acquisition, which has helped the team avoid pratfalls others have experienced in recent seasons.
Player misconduct has put the NFL in a bad light and cost individual teams greatly. Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy missed an entire season with pay. Running back Adrian Peterson played just once and got paid for a full season.
With the NFL cracking down on off-field mistakes, it’s crucial that teams know what they’re getting into when investing in a player.
“We put that emphasis on it,” McKenzie said. “I learned that from Ted Thompson in Green Bay. You have to be able to count on guys. Are they going to be at every practice, every game, won’t have to be stuck in some suspension deal? So, when I came here (in 2012), that was one of the things I wanted to make sure our scouting department and our coaches knew. I want to treat this locker room as if I was in it. I want to be able to look left and right and these are the guys I want to play with.”
Every player wearing silver and black won’t be squeaky clean. People from all walks of life make mistakes, and McKenzie does his due diligence before taking calculated risks.
The Raiders have done so later in the draft with defensive tackle Stacy McGee (sixth round) in 2013 and cornerback Keith McGill (fourth round) and defensive lineman Shelby Harris (seventh round). Those players made a poor choice as young men, but didn’t repeat as professionals trying to find their way.
“Character is huge,” McKenzie said. “That doesn’t mean we’re not going to bring in guys with any issues. We’re going to bring in some guys with some issues. But when we get the information and it says, ‘you probably don’t want to do this guy,’ we’re going to look into it.
“There are some issues that a guy was maybe a freshman or sophomore and they did some stupid stuff, but they’ve been solid after that, you take everything into account. You take into account all the information you get from the staffers at that school or whether it was the police or psychologists. All the information you can get, you filter through it. We do take in the background checks, the character of the guys, and make a determination.”