The recent saga of Manti Te’o highlights one of the many reasons NFL teams are performing their due diligence in fact-checking potential selections prior to April’s draft.
While the Notre Dame linebacker’s catfish scheme and highly publicized fabrication of his girlfriend’s death grabbed national headlines over the past two months, it’s just the latest – and perhaps strangest – in a litany of off-the-field stories raising very real questions.
It also has NFL teams honing in on their fact-checking through the use of social media, using outlets like Facebook and Twitter to gain snippets into an individual’s character and background.
That research can both be positive and negative depending on the particular case, but you can bet it’s something the NFL is keeping tabs on.
“You'd be shocked. Our security guy does a Twitter and Facebook count,” Seattle general manager John Schneider said. “It does go both ways. You see some things that are very alarming. The Facebook stuff -- a couple years ago, you had that one guy who had a pile of coke and a couple guns sitting there. I don't think that bodes very well. I know my boss wouldn't really like that.”
Te’o is scheduled to speak with the media at Saturday’s NFL combine and is sure to grab the attention of the hundreds of media in attendance. During the first two days of the combine media availability, many general managers have noted their desire to speak with him.
The Packers and general manager Ted Thompson embody the give-and-take approach many NFL teams take towards players with question marks, taking each individual on a case-by-case basis.
The past few years, the Packers have benefitted from adding undrafted free agents like Sam Shields and Dezman Moses, who had off-the-field incidents during college.
Last year, they used their fourth-round pick on Maine safety Jerron McMillian, who had one strike against him after a 2010 arrest for disorderly conduct, assault and failure to submit to arrest.
One NFL.com mock draft has the Packers taking Te’o with their first-round pick (26th overall).
“I think those kind of things, any sort of bugaboos, whether off the field with legal problems or jam-ups with the law, whatever it is, those things are all individual cases and you try to work through it,” Thompson said.
"We don’t doubt that people have made mistakes. We’ve all made mistakes. I think you can make a mistake and bounce back from it. We do try to discern whether a person is a good guy or a bad guy. I know that sounds simple, but it’s not.”
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