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John Harbaugh 'Very Concerned' With Recent Off-Field Issues


John Harbaugh didn't mince words when addressing recent off-the-field issues involving his players.

The Ravens head coach spent the bulk of Thursday's press conference discussing the topic, saying that he is "very concerned" with incidents this offseason and he has addressed the issue on multiple occasions with his team. 

"We talk to those guys all the time," Harbaugh said on the second day of Organized Team Activities. "I'm disappointed in some of the silliness that has gone on.

"Character is very important to us. It's something that really matters to us. We think everything that everything you do off the field has an impact on what you do on the field, and vice versa."

This has been an uncharacteristic offseason for the Ravens, as four players have been arrested since the 2013 season ended. The most recent arrest was rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, who was charged with disorderly conduct and public drunkenness after allegedly breaking the window of a taxi cab in his hometown in Virginia over the weekend.

Harbaugh talked with the entire team Tuesday about the importance of making good decisions away from the field.

"First of all, you have to understand that you may be 22, 23, 25, 26, but it's not like your 22 and 23-year-old buddies," Harbaugh said. "You're not in the same position they're in. You have to grow up faster than your pals. You can't go home and run around with your pals and think that you're in the same place that they're in. It's a privilege to have a job like this. It's a privilege to be in the National Football League. Yes, you've earned it, but you're going to have to earn to stay in this league. It's never given."

A common factor in the string of recent arrests has been alcohol or drugs. Alcohol appeared to be involved in the situations surrounding the arrest of running back Ray Rice on an assault charge and offensive lineman Jah Reid on battery charges. Wide receiver Deonte Thompson was charged with marijuana possession.

Harbaugh has warned about the dangers of drinking too much before, and he re-iterated that on Thursday.

"To me if you look at everything that happens, it seems that it's 90 percent alcohol and another percent is marijuana. One of those two things is going to be involved," Harbaugh said.

"You don't do the right thing just because you call a cab. I'd rather have you do that than get in a car and get behind the wheel. But how about we start off with the idea that we're not going to go out and drink. How about we start out with that? The other side of the coin is that we're all supposed to be world-class athletes. That is not what I would call an effective training method right there, when you drink too much. It starts with that. We expect those guys to chase a high standard."

Coaches aren't the only people who can communicate the expectations of the team. Veteran players are an important part of the equation, and quarterback Joe Flacco reiterated Harbaugh's message about his teammates putting themselves in bad situations.

"The guys are good guys, but they've probably been in the wrong situations," Flacco said. "Drinking is probably never a great thing or a great idea. But it's something that teams have to deal with, and the biggest thing is just to support those guys and help them through the situation. Obviously when it becomes a reoccurring theme, you don't like that and you have to make sure you get your point across to everybody. Hopefully, it will stop."

Another point Harbaugh made was that players need to understand how technology has changed their lives in the public. Cell phones can capture video of people at any moment, and some news outlets are often looking for opportunities to broadcast that material.

"It's kind of a different world than a lot of us grew up in," he said. "We could make some mistakes and nobody would know it. It's not like that anymore."

Harbaugh acknowledged that he has spent more time this offseason talking with players about their actions off the field, and that he is continually looking for ways to discourage poor behavior. He's open to new methods, including having stricter curfew policies during training camp, or making the veteran players stay in the team hotel for a longer period of time.

Harbaugh also said Taliaferro did some extra running with him this week after the incident.

"We ran 18 full gassers together on Tuesday when we got back," Harbaugh said. "And it was pretty hot. Was that punishment? Well I was going to do the workout anyway, but I needed some company. And he did a good job."

At this point, Rice, Thompson, Reid and Taliaferro all remain on the roster, but Harbaugh stressed that poor decisions off the field can lead to the team parting ways with players. 

"At some point in time, your mistakes begin to impact us in a negative way," he said. "Negativity overbalances your ability to help our football team, you're not going to be here anymore. Or if we can't trust your character anymore, then you can't be part of what we're doing anymore. And that goes for everybody. That's not just for players. That goes for coaches, that's scouts, that's everybody."

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