With four players arrested this offseason, the Miami Dolphins have been facing the “character” question a lot lately. After all, it was Executive Vice President of Football Operations Bill Parcells who said during his first press conference when he was hired by the Dolphins in 2007 that “character” was one of three criteria he uses to evaluate players.
So it’s not a surprise that people are wondering about that criteria after two DUI arrests (Will Allen and Ronnie Brown) and two for domestic battery (Tony McDaniel and Phillip Merling).
In March, prior to Merling’s arrest, team owner Steve Ross said: “You certainly don’t want to see it happen. It doesn’t make us happy. It’s a concern. The coaches and Parcells are disappointed, and concerned, and they are addressing it.”
The situation with Merling, who was charged last month with aggravated battery against his pregnant girlfriend, was muddied when he was back on the practice field in mini-camp a day after posting bail.
At the time, Coach Tony Sparano acknowledged frustration over the four arrests, but didn’t address questions about Merling’s return to the field head-on. Instead, he deflected the issue to the NFL.
"We're going to let the process play itself out and see what the league decides down the road," Sparano said at the time.
None of the other members of Dolphins brass has addressed the question of player conduct since Merling’s arrest. Attempts to ask team owner Steve Ross were quashed on two occasions during the Dolphins Foundation’s FinsWeekend of charitable events – one colleague was told he was not allowed to ask about the issue; I got the question out, but before Ross could answer, a team spokesman said, “we’re not dealing with that.”
Attempts to reach Ross’ limited partners, including Gloria Estefan, Venus and Serena Williams and Fergie, either went unanswered or were referred back to the Dolphins. A further request to the Dolphins to speak with the limited partners, was answered by Dolphins CEO Mike Dee, who said he and Ross speak for the team.
Dee said he couldn’t speak to the specific arrests: “It’s a league matter or a legal matter.”
As for the team, he said, Parcells, Sparano and General Manager Jeff Ireland do keep player conduct top of mind.
“We have great guys on this team, They do a lot for the community both on their own and on behalf of the franchise,” Dee said. “Bill, Jeff and Tony put a tremendous emphasis on character and makeup when they put this roster together. We’re proud of the team that we have and I know it’s an important priority as we move forward as well to continue to put the emphasis on the character and makeup of our guys. We’re really happy with the team that we have, and think they represent this franchise well in the community.”