AFC South: Rick Spielman

INDIANAPOLIS -- Some of what Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman sees on Twitter baffles him.

Why would a player who hopes to enter one of the most public professions there is, brag publicly about partying or using drugs? Why, despite all the training, the warnings both verbal and by example, and the cautionary tales, would players delight in just the type of behavior that would make an NFL team balk?

[+] EnlargeRick Spielman
AP Photo/Johnny VyRick Spielman says the Vikings are looking at what players have posted on their Twitter accounts.
Spielman doesn't get it, but he makes sure he knows everything he can about it. Amid questions about players' failed drug tests, incidents from their past and other potential character red flags come those about their Twitter posts.

"I'm sure in the heck going to ask them when they come in for their interviews," he said. "I've got a list of all their Twitters. I've read them and we wrote a report just on their Twitter account. ...I won't say the names but out of the 60 that we did there were eight guys that we have concerns about on Twitter that we'll address."

Just as much as the disturbing content, the naivete or carelessness of showing it where future employers might find it tells teams something about the player. It speaks to his maturity -- a focal point of his pre-draft season, given the record number of underclassmen entering this year's draft. It's what led Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert to call this the most talented and possibly the most immature draft class he's ever seen.

"The emotional part of being a college kid and all of a sudden the next day being a professional, I think it's a little easier to transition from your senior year to the pros than it would be from a junior or sophomore year," Colbert said.

Rookie players have to live on their own, get themselves to meetings, pay their own bills and keep themselves out of trouble while having more money and more time. The spotlight grows even beyond what they experienced as college stars and mistakes are better documented. "We're in that age of social media," said San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke. "We pay a great deal of attention to it. When we narrow the board down over the next several weeks, we'll start identifying the players that we want to run social media with and take a look at their accounts and how active they are and what they're saying and what they're doing."

It shouldn't be a problem anymore.

In the early days of Twitter and Facebook, kids and college students fancied some protection from the outside world in their posts as they entered the work force. Ignorance was a passable, if not terribly savvy, excuse about mediums through which people communicated with their friends.

But now common sense should prevail before anyone hits "tweet," especially in the high-profile world of being a college or professional athlete. An accidental or ill-advised or even hacked tweet can be seen by hundreds of people, even if deleted within seconds.

Last season, a lewd video that appeared on Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins' Instagram for a few minutes led to a news conference during which he uttered this uncomfortable phrase: "Negative: It is not my genitals." He then advised other athletes to make their social media passwords more creative.

The issue never came up again, but showed the reach of even a momentary post on a public social media account.

One of the best cautionary tales about Twitter came in 2010, when Giants safety Will Hill, then at the University of Florida, posted tweets about his marijuana use, sexual escapades and other things that raised questions about his maturity. He paid dearly for it. Hill went undrafted and spent a season in the Arena Football League before getting a chance in the NFL.

Florida took a more active interest in monitoring players' tweets after that episode. It's pervasive in college athletics now. Some coaches ban their players from using Twitter during the season. Schools put them through media training.

"Very aware," former Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas said, emphasizing the word "very" when asked how aware he was of the public nature of his tweets.

It shouldn't be a problem, and yet …

"There were guys I found on Twitter this year that I can't believe they would post and retweet some of the stuff they are saying," Spielman said.

Beyond the content, it just shows bad judgment in the same way marijuana use before an expected drug test shows bad judgment. If you know this will hurt you and you do it anyway, are you mature enough to make your own decisions, and the right ones?

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