ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — It was a mantra during the Bill Polian/John Butler/Marv Levy era.
The Bills wanted nothing to do with players of questionable character.
It was their feeling that having them on the roster reflected negatively on the franchise and, ultimately, were more trouble than their talent — no matter how considerable — was worth.
Oh, since that trio moved on, there have been some transgressors.
Marshawn Lynch’s and Donte Whitner’s arrests come to mind.
Then, of course, there’s the current issue of defensive tackle Marcell Dareus being arrested for possessing synthetic marijuana.
And, there was the risky trade for wide receiver Mike Williams from the Buccaneers last month. Yeah, the Mike Williams whose off-field issues caused Tampa Bay’s personnel hierarchy to decide he was expendable.
The investment wasn’t significant for the Bills, a sixth-round draft choice for a player with impressive numbers ... if you can look past the rap sheet.
Dareus, meanwhile, failed the IQ test .
The public view on marijuana — including the synthetic version which is supposedly undetectable in current drug tests — has softened in recent years, especially with it having been legalized in several states.
But Alabama isn’t one of them.
And twice last year he was benched for parts of games for being late to meetings.
Dareus is a Pro Bowl talent, but you wonder whether he’s just immature, or a problem child in-the-making.
That leads to Buffalo’s final draft pick on Sunday.
With the second of two seventh-round choices, No. 237 overall, the Bills took University of Miami offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson, a 6-foot-7, 330-pound specimen, with a grade two or three rounds higher.
Why did he come within 19 picks of being undrafted?
Apparently because he was suspended three times due to positive marijuana tests at Miami and managed to prove there was no lesson learned with another positive test at the NFL Combine.
Clearly, Williams and Henderson are one more screw-up from being ex-Bills. And at the cost of a sixth- and seventh-round draft choice, the investment is relatively small.
Still, it’s worth wondering whether the standards of the Polian/Butler/Levy triumvirate no longer exist for the Bills.
Buffalo coach Doug Marrone was asked that very question Saturday after the draft.
“I know that character is obviously important,” he admitted, “but ... people are going to make mistakes. We’re not all perfect. There comes a point when you say, ‘This is where we are, this is the tolerance level now and one more time and you’re gone.’ Each situation is different.”
And while that sounds like a flimsy, altruistic excuse, the current Bills have a perfect example.
Last season, in the second round, they selected Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso, a player with several alcohol-related brushes with the law while in college.
Buffalo’s personnel department assessed that Alonso was a victim of youthful foolishness rather than a drinking problem.
He joined the Bills, put up impressive numbers as a rookie, and had no off-field problems.
Of the character issue, general manager Doug Whaley added, “From a personnel side we take it like coach said ... as a case-by-case basis. You don’t want to put a hard line on someone because they’re young adults and I remember when I was a young adult, I made some mistakes and they’ve made some mistakes.
“When you sit down and talk to somebody man-to-man, eye-to-eye, you can see what they’re all about. If you get a feeling that they’re not willing to change or they’re not willing to take steps to better themselves, then you may take a different course of action. If you see they’re truly remorseful and they’re really trying to, as we say, ‘get it,’ Of the Henderson pick, Whaley concluded, “ We’ve talked to Seantrel ... we’re saying ‘we’ll give you this one shot.’
“It has nothing to do with us saying this guy is a talented football player ... he’s been dealing with some demons. Hopefully those demons are out of his life and why not give somebody — this is America — a chance?”
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com)