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Ballard: 'Ignore the noise' when scouting prospects with character issues

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Colts GM: 'Ignore the noise' when scouting prospects with character issues

Mike Wells ESPN Staff Writer


INDIANAPOLIS -- Take a chance on a player with character issues because of his skill set or shy away from the player with character issues to avoid possible distractions?

That's an issue NFL teams tend to face with when it comes to draft prospects. But Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard goes into the draft process with an open mind and doesn't judge a player without doing his own thorough background check on a prospect.

"We are going to research every player," Ballard said. "We are going to vet every player hard. We are going to go A to Z to see what the problems are and see if it's something we want to manage. That's going to come as an organizational decision from [owner Jim] Irsay and from the rest of our ownership down to our marketing. How is it going to impact our fans? We have to weigh all of that before we make a decision on a high-risk character guy."

"We are going to vet every player hard," Chris Ballard said of potential draft picks. "We are going to go A to Z to see what the problems are and see if it's something we want to manage." Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports

This year, one of the prospects with a potential red flag is former Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who punched a female student in the face in 2014. He was suspended for the 2014 football season and initially received a misdemeanor assault charge, but he ended up accepting a plea deal with a year of probation, counseling and 100 hours of community service.

Mixon's off-the-field issues kept him from being invited to the combine earlier this month because of a policy the NFL instituted that bars players from taking part in the combine if they have a misdemeanor or felony conviction that involved violence against women.

Ballard didn't talk about any players specifically, but he said the Colts will do their homework before making a decision. The last thing the Colts -- or any team for that matter -- want is to have to deal with off-the-field problems when the focus should be on developing players, creating competition and putting the best possible product on the field.

"I tell our scouts this: 'Ignore the noise,'" Ballard said. "Let's make our own opinion of people. That's why they pay us to do what we do. Let's go meet the family. Kids make mistakes. These are young kids still growing up and they make mistakes and we have to figure out, that's our job and our organization's job, to figure out the guys that we are willing to take a chance on."

Ballard knows firsthand what it's like to go through the process of researching a player. He played a pivotal role in Kansas City selecting cornerback Marcus Peters in the first round of the 2015 draft. Peters was kicked off the University of Washington football team during his junior year after he had issues with the school's new coaching staff.

The Chiefs sent Ballard, then the team's director of football operations, to Oakland, California, to meet with Peters, his family and high school coaches to get firsthand information on the cornerback. The Chiefs took Peters with the No. 18 pick in the first round and he responded by being named the NFL's defensive rookie of the year after having eight interceptions.

"Chris is a good people person," Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said. "I thought it would be important that I had somebody I trusted to go there [Oakland]. He met with the family and met with everybody in the surroundings. I knew once he came back and gave me his report. I was going to see it through his lens because I know how he thinks. He knows how I think and we see things very alike. I knew what he came back and told me was going to be accurate and I was good with that."




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As they should.  I wouldn't rule anyone out without first researching everything carefully.  The Indianapolis Colts aren't a social club or a children's choir.  They aren't some philanthropic organization, at least that's not their first priority.  They are here to win football games, and football requires guys with toughness and attitude and ability, at least enough to win games.  They don't need a bunch of nice guys out there who can't play, they need guys who are going to stay out of jail or away from suspension so they are at least available.  So long as they meet that then they should be considered IMHO, and that's what these scouts and Ballard need to find out.  Are they isolated incidents or are they a pattern concerning for character issues?

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