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How will scandal-stung Dolphins weigh character concerns?

Part of the fallout from last Fall's harassment scandal in Miami is that eyes are on the Dolphins to see what type of players they add to their locker room now. Teams traditonally have varying degrees of pain thresholds when it comes to players with character flaws or histories of trouble and the Dolphins have steered clear of some of those while embracing others.

The Dolphins had cornerback Aqib Talib off their board in 2008 and wanted no part of cornerback Jimmy Smith in 2011. But they were fine with Davone Bess in 2008, Vontae Davis in 2009 and Jimmy Wilson in 2011.

And, yes, they added Richie Incognito in 2010 when he had washed out of multiple college programs and the St. Louis Rams and Buffalo Bills wanted nothing further with him.

The Dolphins also kept Incognito in 2012 and '13 until the harassment scandal broke, even after they were aware of his infamous team golf outing battery on a female volunteer prior to the '12 season.

As Nick Saban once told me, "I'm not running Father Flanagan's home for boys here. I'm running a football team and guys sometimes have troubled pasts you have to accept."

And most teams accept them and aren't really questioned for that. Even the New England Patriots can go out and sign or draft players with problematic pasts and no one seems to question them -- even though they had a player on their roster who is in jail awaiting trial on murder charges.

But because the Dolphins were such a focus of national attention during the bully scandal, because the Commissioner has made such a point of stressing locker room conduct, and because the team itself has perhaps overreacted in pledging to aggressively stress a good work environment, the Dolphins are under the microscope now.

So will they still draft players with questionable backgrounds? Or will they flag them and take them off their board?

Will they stress finding good citizens to the extreme of losing sight of finding great players? Or will the Dolphins be able to walk the fine line between getting good players who may have character blemishes that can be managed?

It's an interesting dynamic that the team is currently managing.

Consider that several players the Dolphins have shown interest in this pre-draft period come with some character concerns. Some have drug pasts. Some were suspended in school. Some committed crimes.

So what will the Dolphins do with their interest in those players? It will be interesting to see.

Here are some players the Dolphins have shown interest in that have some sort of character concerns:

CB Walt Aikens: He played at Liberty but that was after he transferred from Illinois where he got kicked off the team by coach Ron Zook after he was arrested and pleaded guilty to burglary.

WR Martavis Bryant: He was suspended from playing in the Dec. 31, 2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl game for academic reasons. He apparently was habitually absent from study hall which is not a big deal except that it speaks to meeting responsibilities and being on time to meetings. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said this of Bryant at the time: "At some point, enough is enough. Martavis is a good young man. We have study hall rules that you have to follow here. And when you are just kind of habitual in breaking those rules it gets in my hands and that is kind of where it’s at. He just hasn’t done what he needs to do from a team standpoint and academically. It was a decision that was made and hopefully he will learn from and decide that he wants to be a student."

CB Phillip Gaines: He was arrested in 2011 for possession of marijuana and, of course, that's a long time ago. But he was also suspended by Rice from the 2013 season opener for violating team rules, the details of which were not specified.

OT Seantrel Henderson: Despite his great athletic gifts, his University of Miami career is more known for suspensions, missed meetings, benchings, missed classes and marijuana use than his on-field play. He confessed to marijuana use at the Indianapolis Combine. Good thing because, according to ESPN, he tested positive for marijuana at the Combine.

TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins: He was suspended for the 2013 season opener after he was arrested and pleaded guilty to a drunk driving charge the previous July. The tight end had a blood alcohol level of .18 which is more than twice the legal limit. He was sentenced to 365 days in jail of which 364 were suspended. The Dolphins had the player in for a visit but it is unclear if that was discuss the arrest or re-check a fractured foot that showed up during the NFL Combine or both.

CB Marcus Roberson: He was arrested in 2011 when he was a sophomore for underage drinking. He was 18 at the time and the legal drinking age in Florida is 21. Roberson was also suspended in November of 2013 for violating unspecifided team rules. He missed one game. There are also "character" concerns, according to one scout I talked to. He would not be specific.

Other players in this draft with character concerns, according to scouts:  Michigan OT Taylor Lewan, South Carolina CB Victor Hampton, LSU RB Jeremy Hill, Alabama State RB Isaiah Crowell. This by the way is not a complete list.

 

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