Last Monday, Falconmaven’s Emily Barkann asked the question about whether Ra’Shede Hageman was worth the trouble for the Falcons? Her main talking points in the video seemed to center around his substance abuse problems and his willingness to do the work to make himself a valuable part of the team’s defensive line.
I want to provide a different perspective on whether Ra’Shede Hageman is worth the trouble for the Falcons, considering the team’s defensive line questions. Two years earlier, when the Falcons had decided to release Hageman they had Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe filling the middle of the defensive line. Now they need him and they’re singing a different tune.
Hageman did have impressive size and football skills when the Falcons made him the 37th overall pick in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He reportedly has been working out extensively to get and keep in shape in his two years away from football. What he hasn’t done is demonstrate under any circumstances that he’s earned another chance to play in the NFL!
Dan Quinn said when Hageman was re-signed in April, “Ra’Shede has taken responsibility for his actions and continues to show genuine remorse as well as an ongoing commitment to getting better. He has put in the work necessary for us to give him another opportunity,”
What should be getting asked is, what remorse? He’s never stated remorse for his actions. He’s talked about how hard he’s been working out, which sounds like the commitment Quinn is talking about, but I’ve looked extensively and can’t find one statement of remorse.
Hageman said in an interview with Chris Tomasson of the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, “The domestic (violence charges) got dropped. It was disorderly conduct (that he pleaded to). … I’m not going to go into detail (on what happened). Disorderly conduct is you yelling, cussing, swearing out loud. It varies. Disorderly conduct could be a range of things, just verbal confrontation.”
According to the police report there was a lot more to the incident. The girlfriend said, Hageman entered her apartment home demanding his keys and began throwing items around the home when she said she didn't have the keys. She told police her son was crying as he watched Hageman pull her hair, verbally abuse her and then grab her phone, pulling the line out of the wall, when she said she was going to call 911. The police report also said that she had a laceration on her left elbow and left hand.
He was able to plead to disorderly conduct because prosecutors could not get his girlfriend to testify in court. This happens quite a bit in all domestic violence arrests, not just the ones involving celebrities. Spouses and partners rarely follow through with domestic violence testimony. Prosecutors took the plea deal instead of walking away with nothing.
Hageman did complete community service but the NFL didn’t follow through with an investigation after his conviction and doesn’t require domestic violence counseling anyway. You can also tell by his statement that he has no clue about what he’s done.
Hageman finished with, “At the end of the day, I’m a better person. I’ve learned from my experiences and I move forward. … Sitting out has really humbled me.” Nothing in that statement demonstrates remorse, or that he’s even aware of what he needs to take responsibility for.
The Falcons needed help at defensive tackle and are attempting to fill one of the acknowledged holes on their team with someone who had potential when he came into the league but could be had cheap because of his demonstrated lack of character.
There will be shock by the media and fan base when another incident occurs, either by his temper or alcohol but not from me. Four years ago, the Bears got burned in nearly the same way that the Falcons are setting themselves up for.
Defensive tackle Ray McDonald had been cut by the 49ers in mid-December of 2014. The following March, while needing to fill a gaping hole on the defensive line, first-year general manager Ryan Pace got permission from team chairman George McCaskey to sign him to a one-year contract.
At the time McCaskey said, "I was impressed with how sincere he was and how motivated he is. He understands, I think, that he could have well been facing the end of his football career. And he loves football, and he wants that career to continue, so I was impressed with his motivation."
In May, McDonald was arrested, again on domestic battery charges, and the Bears couldn’t dump him fast enough. After the release, Pace said, "We believe in second chances, but when we signed Ray, we were very clear what our expectations were if he was to remain a Bear. He was not able to meet the standard and the decision was made to release him."
Those quotes didn’t stop Bears fans, especially the female portion of their fan base, from firing up the hot coals under McCaskey and Pace for not talking to the victims, instead of just McDonald’s family, before signing him.
It was the same tune with a variation on the words when the Oakland Raiders thought they could get away with signing outside linebacker Aldon Smith. As of today, it still appears that Smith hasn’t figured out that you’re not supposed to drive a car after drinking. The Cleveland Browns have signed Kareem Hunt for 2019 after the Chiefs released him after he assaulted a female fan. I won’t be surprised if we hear more about him at some point too.
The NFL doesn’t require any counseling on anger management, domestic violence, alcohol abuse, or anything else when a player gets into trouble. The most you hear is that a player “made a mistake” then they serve their suspension, usually plea bargained down from the original eight games, then you hear nothing else until the inevitable next incident.
You can build a quality team without these guys. The Bears made some smart drafts, acquired a major force in Khalil Mack, and now Ryan Pace has transformed from buffoon to genius after the Bears had the best defense in the NFL last season.
Playing professional football is a privilege, not a right! Hageman has gotten by with the bare minimum required of him and has been rewarded because Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff need him. Who needs character. As long as you can play football at a high level you’ll always have a home in the NFL.