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Taking risks is a part of the NFL

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The push to sanitize the league is doomed to fail.

Jared Wickerham

With Aaron Hernandez's arrest, the NFL is being opened up for another round of attacks on its character. What should we do to stop teams from taking risks on BAD PEOPLE? Why, we should take away their draft picks! That will teach them to think that people can be productive in the NFL!

This is, of course, a bunch of nonsense. Yes, NFL teams take risks on players with so-called "character issues". They do so only when the price is right, which is why you saw Aaron Hernandez fall to the fourth round of the 2010 draft rather than be a first-round pick. And very, very often -- those "character risks" turn out to not be huge risks, at all.

If the NFL were to steer clear of character risks, it would be a worse league. The NFL would have missed Lawrence Taylor, Warren Sapp, Michael Irvin, Cris Carter and a host of other players in a useless effort to sanitize a league that can never be sanitized. Mike Williams was seen as a character risk in 2010, too. Why would you force the NFL to remove those players from its confines?

The truth of the matter is that the NFL is already very cautious with character risks. They don't invest high draft picks in players who they see as character risks. Players face many suspensions for conduct. They get session upon sessions upon session of lectures throughout their career on how to avoid trouble. The NFL already does as much as it realistically can to limit character issues. It doesn't like bad PR any more than any other company.

But you can't stop human beings from being human.

Aaron Hernandez is a bad person. But bad people exist in all walks of life, and there's no reason why the NFL would be any different. This drive to make the NFL better than the rest of society is foolhardy and impossible. The NFL is made up of human beings, and human beings do many bad, terrible things. They make stupid decisions. They do drugs. They drink alcohol and step behind a steering wheel. They lie, cheat and steal.

You can't remove those issues from the NFL any more than you can remove hyperbolic trolls from sports media.

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