Bengals owner Mike Brown acknowledged on Friday that drafting running back Joe Mixon from Oklahoma was a risk because of his background.
Brown said in a letter to the Cincinnati Enquirer published on Friday — the day rookie minicamp opened — that Mixon "did a terrible thing" when he punched a woman in the face in 2014. Brown also said it's "unacceptable for a man to strike a woman."
His comments came in response to a public backlash against the Bengals taking Mixon in the second round of the NFL draft one week ago. Mixon was suspended for his freshman season after he punched Amelia Molitor, breaking bones in her face.
The day after Mixon was taken in the draft, a local television station published an editorial on its website saying it was a "disgraceful" decision. WCPO-TV said fans should stop buying tickets and instead donate money to organizations that work to prevent domestic violence.
A local advocacy group also urged the team to speak out against domestic violence. Representatives from Women Helping Women met with the team Monday and later said that "violence should hold no position on a team."
After acknowledging Mixon's behavior was unacceptable, Brown said the team drafted him anyway because he is "a rare football talent" that can help it win.
"In making our decision, we took a risk," Brown wrote. "In this case, the risk has an upside as well as a downside. We believe Joe has put this behind him and that he can turn into the player and community member that creates a plus for Cincinnati. "
Mixon thanked Brown for his public support on Friday before the rookies' first workout at Paul Brown Stadium.
"I've been just trying to get out here and be with my teammates and move forward, you know, on with the situation," the running back said. "Thank you Mike Brown for that, but just trying to move on and come out here and compete and learn this playbook so we can get our team a win."
Brown has a history of signing players who have been in trouble and giving them extra chances. He chose to keep cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones after his latest arrest this offseason for an altercation at a downtown hotel. Jones faces misdemeanor charges, including assault, and could be suspended again by the NFL.
After Jones' arrest, the team made the unusual move of publicly apologizing for his behavior, especially his vulgar comments to police officers in a cruiser. Video of his comments — including a statement that he hoped one of the officers would die — was made public.
Conley maintains innocence
Oakland Raiders first-round draft pick Gareon Conley called his meeting with police this week about a rape accusation another chance to prove his innocence.
Conley met with Cleveland police Monday to give a statement and a DNA sample. A police report released last week says that a 23-year-old woman told officers that Conley raped her in a hotel bathroom on April 9. No charges have been filed.
Conley's attorney, Kevin Spellacy, said earlier this week that there was "a consensual sexual event" that did not include intercourse.
The Raiders have expressed confidence after drafting Conley 24th overall that he will not be charged in the case. But questions about it still surrounded him at his first practice as a pro at rookie minicamp.
"I feel like it went good," Conley said Friday about the meeting with police. "There's not more to say about that. We'll just find out what happens after this."
Conley said it is hard to think about the accusations but he is trying his best to keep his focus on the field, which he knows he must do this weekend when he has practice.
"It makes it way easier," he said. "Football is like a stress reliever for me."
Conley spent his first practice showing off some of his versatility, playing both outside corner and in the slot. The Raiders are hoping he will be able to do that once the season starts as they are looking to upgrade their secondary.
"We're going to learn all that we can about him," coach Jack Del Rio said. "Gareon is, we think, a talent. I think he can play inside and outside. We'll see what the best combination for us is. Just let him come in and compete."