Most players in the NFL have high character. Then, as there is in all aspects of society, there are a smaller number of players that have lost their way a little or totally veered off course.
The issue is that some of those players with character question marks happen to be some of the most talented players in the league. And a few of those players are free agents this offseason – most notably Denver's Brandon Marshall and Buffalo's Terrell Owens.
When it comes to adding such players to the Ravens roster, Baltimore's brass keeps an open mind. The Ravens say they consider every player and aren't opposed to taking a gamble.
How risky the Ravens should be, however, depends on who you ask.
"I would say that, maybe of the four of us, I'm probably the biggest risk taker," Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said while sitting beside President Dick Cass, General Manager Ozzie Newsome and Head Coach John Harbaugh.
"I like the fact that these guys care about our image, and they pull me back from the rail, because I'm ready to take chances on people. I really am. I think that's kind of what life is about, and I think there are opportunities like that."
While the Ravens obviously want good people to join the organization, they understand a winning football team isn't built by always picking the nicest guys on the market.
"These kids are under so much scrutiny, and we're talking about 53 of them that you have to put together," Bisciotti said. "You're not going to have 53 angels, and you probably wouldn't have a very good team if you had 53 angels."
When evaluating who the risk-takers are among the front office, Bisciotti not-so-coyly pointed to Cass as the most averse. Newsome has shown he is willing to take a chance by the fact that he pursued Owens several years ago. Newsome said he leaves himself "open to anything."
Here's how Harbaugh broke down the pros and cons.
"It just becomes how much do you risk, how much do you take away from other opportunities to build your team for this guy?" Harbaugh said. "If you've put a lot into this guy – a first-round pick, two first picks, a first and a third – for a really good player on your team … and then he doesn't produce for you because he messed up and makes a mistake; now you become a worse team.
"If the reward matches the risk, you kind of balance it out, and you take a shot, because the bottom line is to make your team better – but also to represent the city well."
More than anything, the type or severity of problems a player has had matters most to Baltimore's decision-makers. Repeat offenders are players the Ravens try to avoid.
"I don't think that mistakes are necessarily a sign of poor character," Bisciotti said. "I think repeating mistakes is the closest sign to bad character that you can look at."
When it comes to those "bad characters," Bisciotti doesn't have much sympathy.
The NFL's conduct policy will be one of the issues debated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement talks. Bisciotti hopes NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn't back down from his tough stance on or becomes even more strict with players who stain the rest of the league.
"I think punishments should be severe," Bisciotti said. "I think we have to learn to do without that one, two percent of guys and suspend them for a year instead of four games, and I think they'll get the message."
In staying tough, Bisciotti hopes to create a grass-roots approach to better behavior from NFL athletes.
"I think that it gives these coaches, all the way down to the high school level, a hammer for helping guide these kids from the time that they're stars in high school to being the big man on campus," Bisciotti said.