They knew the question was coming and their answers were predictably obvious when Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano were asked at last week’s NFL Scouting Combine about the recent spate of off-field player issues.
Both reiterated their belief in the Colts building a winning culture, but acknowledged their disappointment about the series of arrests and incidents by saying, “We need to do a better job.”
The Colts have had four players arrested since the beginning of the new year — running back Ahmad Bradshaw (marijuana possession), linebacker D’Qwell Jackson (assault), linebacker Andrew Jackson (second DUI) and Josh McNary (rape).
Since Grigson and Pagano have been hired in 2012, that arrest list has had three other players — linebacker Andrew Jackson (DUI), wide receiver Da’RIck Rogers (DUI) and safety Joe Lefeged (five charges after fleeing police). That doesn’t include owner Jim Irsay, who was suspended six games last season after he accepted a plea bargain for a driving while under the influence arrest.
“Well you know what, I think we need to do a better job,” Grigson said. “I need to do a better job. I think the culture is a very good one though. I think we have a strong locker room. I think we have an excellent culture. I think we have very good veteran leadership. The way Reggie (Wayne) and Robert (Mathis) helped kind of congeal this team from the beginning speaks to the veteran leadership we’ve had in our clubhouse.
“We need to do a better job but there’s also risk/reward. There’s also – do you take a flyer on a guy who has very low financial risk but loves football? The hope is always that he’ll buy into the culture that you’re presenting to him, which is we think a very good habitat for players to be at their best, to iron out some of their rough edges and things like that, and some of them have. But again, some of the guys that we’ve struck out on, I guess we need to do a better job in certain areas and we will. We will.”
Aside from arrests, there have been other disciplinary issues. The team suspended running back Trent Richardson after he missed the Saturday walk-through before January’s AFC Championship Game. The underachieving Richardson is expected to be released.
Reserve offensive tackle Xavier Nixon, who missed the flight for the title game, was released, as was Andrew Jackson after his second DUI arrest in seven months. Safety LaRon Landry, suspended four games last season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, was also cut loose.
Rookie cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy was cut during last season after repeated violations of team rules. Wide receiver LaVon Brazill was cut last July after his second violation of the league’s substance abuse policy (marijuana).
Pagano’s response began with an analogy to his three daughters.
“I raised three daughters, so the way I look at it is two of them brought home A's, one of them brought home an occasional C,” he said. “It took her just a little bit longer to figure it out to bring home the A's, but they all finally figured it out and brought home A's. That's just three daughters in a household. Now we're talking about 90 guys in the offseason, 53 during the regular season and a 10-man practice squad, so it's going to take a few, maybe a little bit longer. I love our culture. I think we have a winning culture.
“We've had some issues. I'm disappointed about those issues. We've got to do better and I've got to do a better job. We're trying to develop these guys to be the best that they can be on the field to help us win football games and off the field. We'll continue to educate. It's an ongoing process. It's a daily process. Again, it's disappointing that you have those type of deals. You've got to make good choices, and with choices come consequences. We’ll continue to try to encourage our guys to do the right thing and make good choices.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.