GM: Players' woes no reflection on team
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Though disappointed that three Buffalo Bills have run into trouble this offseason, general manager Russ Brandon defended the team's reputation and doesn't consider the missteps a true reflection of his players.
"Any time there's a negative light shone on this organization, it affects everybody at 1 Bills Drive," Brandon said Wednesday, referring to the team's address. "Any locker room is a microcosm of society. We've got 85 players on this team and 150 people within this organization, and to say that you're not going to have a problem crop up here and there, I think, is ignorant."Donte Whitner's arrest last weekend in Cleveland. Whitner has been charged with aggravated disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after police used a stun gun on the player during an altercation outside a nightclub.
Running back Marshawn Lynch has been suspended without pay for three games by the NFL after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge after police found a weapon in his car, which was parked in suburban Los Angeles in February. It was the second time Lynch has gotten into trouble after he pleaded guilty to a traffic violation after being involved in a hit-and-run accident in Buffalo last May.
And then there's defensive back Ko Simpson, who was arrested outside a bar in South Carolina early New Year's Day and charged with hindering police after officers were trying to arrest his friends. Prosecutor Chris Barton has said Simpson asked to enter a program that would remove the charge from his record.
The string of arrests have been a distraction for a team attempting to end a nine-year playoff drought. The negative attention has also left the Bills battling a perception that their players lack character.
Brandon, who is also the team's chief operating officer, said it's a case of bad news getting more notice.
"The fact of the matter is simply this: When something goes awry, like we had in the past month, it's on Page 1," he said. "But we all know, all of us, our community service and all the different things that our guys do on that front, you're lucky to get a story on."
Brandon also acknowledged that professional athletes are held to a higher standard and added, "It's imperative that everybody at 1 Bills Drive and within our organization is held accountable."
Brandon spoke during the Bills' annual draft luncheon in response to questions about whether the team will place a higher priority on character when choosing players during the NFL draft next week.
"It's taken very seriously as an organization," Brandon said. "We always value character. It goes into the overall operation of our draft and everything we do here when evaluating a player. Much like you look at vertical jump and a 40 time, you look at that aspect as well."
Whitner was the Bills' first-round pick in the 2006 draft, Lynch a first-rounder in 2007 and Simpson selected in the fourth round in 2006.
Bills chief scout Tom Modrak said he and his staff evaluate players on everything, including character, and make recommendations on draft day.
"I understand what's recently gone on, but that doesn't mean we've looked past it any less," Modrak said. "We do our due diligence."
Brandon provided little update on talks with Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, who held out last offseason in a failed bid to restructure his contract. Peters has two years left on his current deal and hasn't ruled out another holdout this offseason.
"We value him a great deal," Brandon said. "We'd like to have him on this team. And we'll see where it goes from there."
Brandon sidestepped a question on whether the Bills would consider trading Peters if a new deal isn't reached by the draft.
"I think we're just going to see how this situation plays out with Jason," Brandon said. "We expect him to be on this football team and we will continue to work with him and his representatives."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press