A hero and a zero

Packers running back Noah Herron and Tampa Bay tight end Jerramy Stevens are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to character, says Packer Report's Bob Fox

Much has been said about what recently occurred with Noah Herron. Two men who attempted a burglary at the home of Herron were arrested, thanks to Herron.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson was the man who signed Herron to a Packers contract. Besides signing players like Herron, Thompson has also signed free agents like Charles Woodson, Ryan Pickett and Brandon Chillar. Thompson has also had some pretty good draft classes since Thompson became the Packer GM.

To me, Herron stands tall. We all recall what happened to Sean Taylor when intruders broke into his house in Florida. As Taylor tried to protect his family and his residence, Taylor was fatally wounded. Herron was able to stop his assailants from their attempt on his home. And he probably saved other area residents from having the same type of situation occur at the homes.

Herron is a hero.

Jerramy Stevens is a zero. Both players are somewhat interconnected, as Thompson was in the front office of the Seattle Seahawks when Stevens was selected by the Hawks with their first pick in the 2002 NFL draft. Stevens had a very dark past when the Seahawks decided to draft him.

During his senior year in high school, he and another student were accused of beating a schoolmate over his head with a baseball bat and stomping on his face. The victim suffered a broken jaw and ate with a straw for six months. Stevens was charged with felony assault, but Thurston County prosecutors lowered the charges to assault in the fourth degree when they learned he did not use the bat, despite Stevens having repeatedly violated the terms of his home confinement while awaiting trial. Stevens then pled guilty in open court to assault in the fourth degree, while the other student pled guilty to the felony assault with the bat.

Stevens was just beginning. On July 27 , 2000, he was arrested for the sexual assault of a 19-year-old University of Washington freshman. Stevens initially denied having sex with the accuser, but later admitted to having sex with her in the yard of a fraternity house in the early morning hours of June 4, 2000, after a fraternity party, but maintained it was consensual.

However, a UW student who walked by and witnessed them having sex called 911 to report it as a possible rape, noting that the woman appeared to be drugged; he described her as "half passed out ... eyes glazed ... no one home." Stevens' semen was found in the victim, who was penetrated vaginally and anally, and numerous witnesses testified that she acted as if drugged at the party. Police suspected a date rape drug was given to the woman at the party, but blood samples were taken too late for testing.

Despite these suspicions, the King County prosecutor declined to file rape charges against Stevens due to "confusing and conflicting statements."

A civil suit, which resulted in a settlement, was later filed by the victim. The civil settlement was not publicly disclosed, but according to published reports included a $300,000 payment by Stevens to the plaintiff. The investigation and aftermath of this incident and the subsequent decision to not charge Stevens were reported by the Seattle Times.

Since that time, Stevens has had numerous driving infractions including charges of reckless driving and a DUI. In fact, on June 4, 2008, Stevens was suspended for 2 games and fined 3 game checks after violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

Yet through all of that, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed him as a free agent this year and last.

The NFL draft is a crap shoot. Some players come into the draft with reputations that rightly or wrongly tell a story about how the player will do on and OFF the field. Players like Randy Moss, Warren Sapp, Lawrence Phillips and Pacman Jones come to mind. Moss and Sapp had great careers on the field, while occasionally having minor issues off.

Phillips and Jones seem to be on the other side of the spectrum. Great talent, but the off the field behavior tells of bad decisions and bad character. Some NFL teams refuse to draft players like that. Character becomes a huge issue, along with talent. Thompson seems to have drafted that way in Green Bay, and his signing of free agents like Herron back it up.

Thompson also drafted WR Koren Robinson in Seattle in the first round of the 2001 draft. Thompson later signed Robinson to the Packers after a troubled and tumultuous time off the field due to drinking and driving. But Thompson believed in the character of Robinson and the belief that Robinson would stop using alcohol, plus teammates like Brett Favre welcomed Robinson to the team with open arms.

Robinson supposedly has stayed clean throughout his time in Green Bay, and although he was recently released, it had nothing to do with his off the field behavior.

Drafts and free agent signings and the character of players are also put to the test with different organizations. When Thompson drafted Robinson and Stevens in Seattle, head coach Mike Holmgren still had a lot of power within the Seattle organization. In fact it wasn't until after the 2002 season, that Holmgren relinquished the real GM job in Seattle.

In Green Bay, Thompson has total control over the draft and free agents. Yes, he talks to head coach Mike McCarthy, other coaches and the scouting department, but he has the final say on who is selected in the draft or signed as a free agent.

In Tampa, head coach Jon Gruden and GM Bruce Allen make the decisions. Much like they did in Oakland, when they worked under Al Davis. The Glazer family in Tampa has given Gruden and Allen much greater control over team matters for the Bucs, unlike Davis did in Oakland. The signing of Stevens, TWICE, flies completely in the face of high character players such as Derrick Brooks and Warrick Dunn.

Yes, the NFL is all about winning. The not for long league as Jerry Glanville used to say if you aren't successful. But great talent and great character don't have to be exclusive of each other. Great character makes players work harder in the weight room, film room, the practice field and in games. Plus, OFF the field. Herron proved that he is that type of person.

People deserve second chances, perhaps more, in football and in life. Sometimes people have to hit rock bottom before they know that their life is in shambles. People have been known to have addictions and overcome them like Favre and Robinson did. But chances can't keep coming if you repeatedly get in trouble time and time again.

Herron wasn't a first round pick like Stevens. Herron was a seventh round pick with his second organization now. Herron has displayed talent and character in his time in Green Bay. Herron will also have to display that hard work ethic as he tries to win a job this training camp in Green Bay, as there will be much competition. But what he displayed off the field recently, was a testament to who he really is. A hero. Unlike others like Stevens that continue to be rewarded with chance after chance after displaying no regard for laws, civil obedience or just being a good person.


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