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For draftees, NFL offers clean slate

The Baltimore Sun

The NFL revised its personal conduct policy earlier this month to dictate tougher penalties, less tolerance and a swifter response to aberrant behavior.

But when it comes to player procurement, the NFL has another policy.

It's called the second chance.

A number of college players with rap sheets were beneficiaries of that unofficial policy over the weekend, along with one celebrated wide receiver who has achieved everything in pro football except winning a Super Bowl.

Randy Moss, who bumped into a traffic cop with his car in Minneapolis, admitted smoking marijuana and confessed that he takes plays off in a game, turned a new page in his nine-year NFL career yesterday when the Oakland Raiders traded him to the New England Patriots for a fourth-round draft pick.

On a rebuilt Patriots offense, Moss will have his best chance yet to reach the Super Bowl, something he couldn't do with the Minnesota Vikings or Raiders.

He is so grateful for the opportunity he said he is willing to renegotiate his $9.75 million salary for next season.

"I didn't think that money was a big factor to me," Moss told New England reporters in a conference call. "I think over the course of my career, I've made a lot of money, and I still have money in the bank, so ... why would money be a factor?"

One of the themes of draft weekend was the league's crackdown on misconduct. But at least five players who had gotten into trouble during their college careers were drafted in the first three rounds.

Two players - California running back Marshawn Lynch and Nevada-Las Vegas cornerback Eric Wright - were involved in sexual assault allegations, but charges were dropped in each case. Lynch went to the Buffalo Bills with the 12th pick in the first round and Wright to the Cleveland Browns with a second-round choice.

In the third round, the Kansas City Chiefs drafted North Carolina State defensive tackle Tank Tyler, who was charged in 2005 with assaulting a policeman.

Yesterday, the Denver Broncos gave up their final two picks of the 2007 draft and a third-rounder in 2008 for the chance to jump up in the fourth round to take defensive tackle Marcus Thomas.

Thomas had been suspended for three games in his senior year at Florida for failing a drug test. When he did not comply with terms of his reinstatement, he was kicked off the team.

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who has ties to Florida from his days as an assistant coach there, decided Thomas was worth the gamble. But Shanahan made clear he would cut Thomas if there were any further incidents.

"This guy has made some mistakes, but has not done anything [to break] the law," Shanahan said in a news conference. "He is a quality guy, and hopefully he won't make any more mistakes."

Thomas said he had been tested weekly for drugs and no longer smokes marijuana. But he had to convince NFL teams that he had a change in lifestyle.

"When I talked about it, it was like going to court every day," Thomas said in a conference call with Denver media. "Denver and Tennessee were the only two teams that were going to give me a second chance."

Shanahan has a history of gambling with troubled players. In Saturday's first round, he traded up to take another Florida player, defensive end Jarvis Moss, who had tested positive for marijuana.

In the 2005 draft, Shanahan also took Maurice Clarett with the final pick of the third round, even though there were allegations of impropriety at Ohio State with the running back. Clarett was cut before the regular season.

The Patriots, meanwhile, have reloaded for another run at the Super Bowl. They signed two wide receivers in free agency and traded for two more. Moss is the most accomplished newcomer.

Coach Bill Belichick said in his news conference that he doesn't anticipate any problems with Moss.

"I talked to a lot of people that were all close to him, both teammates and coaches, people that were on his team," Belichick said. "They have a lot of respect for him."

Moss suggested most of his emotional flare-ups stemmed from the frustration of losing.

"I think that what I have done in the past as far as losing and sometimes getting out of control, I think it's just my competitive nature of wanting to win and help my team get into a position to win," he said.

"I know there are some things that I have done in the past ... but I think that's all behind me. I'm really not living in the past. Hopefully, this thing works out. I know I want it to work out and hopefully the organization feels the same."


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