Surprising to seen Benson and Owens in the news? Not really. It seems that every offseason, NFL players, wherever they go to live and relax, make the headlines for messing up. Fortunately for the Green Bay Packers, that hasn't been the case in recent years under Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy's watch. In fact, just the opposite with Noah Herron, who found himself fighting crime rather than committing a crime. Meanwhile, Aaron Kampman was back in his hometown in Iowa to assist with the tornado cleanup.
Sure, if you look hard enough, you can find that Packers players are not angels. Tight end Donald Lee was stopped for speeding recently in De Pere. That made the weekly De Pere Journal, but certainly not ESPN or USA Today.
When McCarthy took over as head coach in January of 2006, he handed out a mission statement to media gathered at the press conference. In it, he emphasized the importance of working with players with good character:
The foundation for the new direction of the Green Bay Packers will be constructed with three key components of obtaining "Packer people," creating a "stable structure," and concentrating on "character and chemistry."
So far, so good with the team's character under McCarthy and Thompson. A lot of that success can be attributed to the team's scouting department that screens, re-screens and thoroughly checks players before signing them to a contract. Ultimately, Thompson and McCarthy have to give their stamp of approval.
Will the Packers be perfect in the character and chemistry department under Thompson and McCarthy? Probably not every year, but so far the players they have kept on the team have been solid citizens. When Koren Robinson was signed to a contract a few years ago, there was plenty of concern about his character. But Robinson recently left Green Bay a much better person than when he arrived, and the Packers should get some credit for his turnaround.
It sure seems that there is value to having played the game and judging character. Thompson, along with scouting and personnel directors John Dorsey and Reggie McKenzie, are all former NFL linebackers. All three have been pretty good at judging character, too. McCarthy never played in the NFL, but he did in college, and he has been a coach in the NFL since 1993, so he has a good idea of who will be good for the locker room and who won't.
Benson and Owens each have talent, but obviously have other issues to deal with as well. Thompson and McCarthy have dealt with issues only related to football, which has contributed to the team's success. McCarthy summed it up best the day he was hired in Green Bay. Here is the rest of his mission statement:
A positive environment will be created with "leadership" that keeps its eye on the target of establishing a championship football team.
The direction will be fueled with constant communication to ensure everyone is on board. We will attack the voyage with energy and enthusiasm to overcome the obstacles that we will encounter.
This vision is enhanced with resources and tradition that stands in the forefront of professional sports organizations.
I am honored and privileged for the opportunity to lead the Green Bay Packers on a new journey back to the pinnacle that bears the name of "Coach Lombardi."
The "new" coach is on his way.