Describing the latest off-the-field issues of Ravens players as frustrating and disappointing, team president Dick Cass acknowledged the organization must do a better job in trying to prevent player misconduct.
"We have to look at everything we are doing, but when you look at some of the individual cases, it's not as though we didn't know about their background before they came," Cass said Monday, speaking from the lobby of the Arizona Biltmore hotel on the first day of the annual league meetings.
"We carefully check out backgrounds before we bring somebody into the building. That's why we've been saying we think it's an aberration, because we don't think the quality of the player we're getting in terms of character is any different than we've had in the past. We don't think we're treating them any different in terms of education, oversight – any differently than we've done in the past. But obviously, we've got to re-examine everything to keep trying to make it better."
Cass' comments come less than a week after running back Bernard Pierce was arrested in Baltimore on drunken driving charges. Pierce, who was released almost immediately, was the eighth Ravens player to be arrested since last offseason. That does not include team director of security Darren Sanders, who is facing sex offense charges.
Team officials had hoped that the five arrests last offseason, which included Ray Rice's domestic violence case, were an aberration. But already this offseason, reserve nose tackle Terrence Cody (animal cruelty), cornerback Victor Hampton (driving while impaired, reckless driving) and Pierce have been arrested.
The arrests have come despite head coach John Harbaugh warning players that the organization would have less tolerance for off-the-field troubles this offseason.
"For the one player, Hampton, we never had a chance to give him the message. But for the older players, John emphasizes the message, our director of player development [Harry Swayne] emphasizes the message, our team chaplain [Johnny Shelton] talks about character issues and taking care of yourself off the field, and taking care of your family and not hurting your individual representation," Cass said. "The messages are still being sent. I just don't know if they're always being received. And so maybe we have to look at how we're sending the message. Maybe, we have to come up with a different message."
Though the Ravens acted swiftly in cutting Pierce, Cody and Hampton, none of the three were projected to have significant roles for the 2015 season. There has been some skepticism to how the Ravens would handle one of their front-line players getting in trouble.
"We look at each case individually. We don't have a hard and fast policy," Cass said. "I've seen some in the media suggest that we have a zero tolerance policy. We do not. We look at each case, we examine the case and we look at such factors as the severity of the alleged offense, the history of the player, the importance of the player to the program and how he fits into our future. What I would say is when the negatives outweigh the positives, we tend to release the player."