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NFL AM: Prince Shembo Charged, Released by Atlanta Falcons

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Shembo Charged, Released by Falcons

At some point, NFL franchises are going to learn that red flags do not always mean “proceed with caution.” More often than not, they mean “stay away at all costs!”

The Falcons ignored the red flags surrounding Prince Shembo when selecting him in the fourth round of last year’s draft. Prior to being selected, Shembo admitted being the Notre Dame player under investigation in the case of a St. Mary’s College student who alleged she was inappropriately touched back in 2010. The victim, Lizzy Seeberg, committed suicide less than two weeks after the alleged incident. Shembo was never charged.

Shembo could not even last a full 12 months in the NFL without messing up again. He was charged on Friday with killing his ex-girlfriend’s dog. The incident was reported to police by his former girlfriend, Denicia Williams, on April 19. A posthumous exam revealed the dog died of blunt force trauma.

Williams told police she took her dog — a Yorkie named Dior — to Shembo’s apartment on April 15. After leaving the dog alone with the Falcons player (never a good idea), she returned to find it unresponsive.

Shembo, who allegedly admitted to Williams that he kicked the dog, has been charged with felony aggravated cruelty to an animal.

The Falcons have been down this road before after seeing former franchise QB Michael Vick serve prison time in 2008 for his role in a dogfighting operation. Atlanta was quick to release Shembo.

“We are aware of the charges that have been filed against Prince Shembo,” the team said in a statement. “We are extremely disappointed that one of our players is involved in something like this. Accordingly, we have decided to waive Prince Shembo.”

Shembo is not the only player to waste his second chance this offseason. Josh Gordon picked up another year-long suspension less than 24 hours after Cleveland’s season ended. More recently, Ray McDonald was arrested twice in a span of 72 hours, prompting his release from the Bears.

This is a dangerous time of year for those looking to protect the integrity of the Shield. With the draft in the rearview mirror and training camps still two months away, there is a lull in the news cycle that is too often filled with stories of players running afoul of the law. The NFL was hoping to avoid that this offseason, given how much tarnish the Shield accumulated during last season’s run of domestic violence cases.

But as long as teams like the Falcons keep taking chances of scumbags like Shembo, the Shield will always be in jeopardy.

Sharper Pleads Guilty

Speaking of tarnishing the Shield, former All Pro safety Darren Sharper pleaded guilty in federal court on Friday in connection with allegations he drugged and assaulted women in four states. Sharper, his hands and feet shackled, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute drugs to commit rape and two counts of distributing drugs to commit rape.

Sharper has been in jail since February 2014 as a result of the charges, which have only accumulated since that time. On March 23, he pleaded guilty to sexual assault in Arizona and no contest in California. On March 24, Sharper pleaded guilty in Las Vegas to attempted sex assault.

He is expected to serve a combined total of nine years for all the cases.

Judge Jane Triche Milazzo asked Sharper during Friday’s hearing: “Are you pleading guilty because you are in fact guilty?” He responded: “Yes, ma’am.”

Sharper was a five-time Pro Bowler who spent his career with the Packers, Vikings and Saints. He won a Super Bowl ring with New Orleans in 2010, although the jewelry he will be most remembered for now are the shackles he sported on Friday.

Belichick in No Mood to Talk

Bill Belichick took his “we’re on to Cincinnati” speech to a whole nother level on Friday. Not only is he not looking back at last week, but he is no longer looking back at last year.

“That’s a long time ago,” Belichick said when asked if the Deflate Gate fallout has taken away from the joy of New England’s fourth Super Bowl victory. “We’re on to next year. It’s 2015. You can forget about last year. That was last year.”

Belichick’s comments came after Friday’s OTAs. The primary focus during that practice was Tom Brady, who is still facing a four-game suspension for his role in the scandal. Brady has an appeal hearing set for June 23, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, leaving open the possibility his suspension will be reduced.

With that uncertainty still in the air, Brady and second-year backup Jimmy Garoppolo split reps fairly evenly during practice. Garoppolo projects as the starter during Brady’s absence, a stretch of schedule that includes games against the Steelers, Bills, Jaguars and Cowboys.

“We’re trying to get everyone an opportunity to learn our system and be able to compete and play,” Belichick explained. “Competition will really come in training camp. This is more of a teaching camp than a competitive camp.”

Garoppolo made the most of his limited opportunities last season, completing over 70 percent of his passes and finishing with a passer rating of 101.2 Of course, much of that came during garbage time. Potentially headlining the regular-season opener against the reigning AFC North champions would be a different beast altogether.

Garoppolo, who still has no idea how many games he’ll be asked to start in Brady’s absence, is doing his best to prepare for whatever lies ahead.

“I’m just going out to practice every day, trying to improve, trying to get my teammates better, me better, and we’ll go from there,” he said. “I just have the mindset I’m trying to get better. That’s all you can control at the end of the day.”

Don’t bet against Garoppolo making the most of this opportunity, either. The last time Brady missed an extended period of time was back in 2008, when a knee injury forced him to miss the final 15 games of the season. Matt Cassel stepped in and led the Patriots to an 11-5 record.

If Garoppolo can split his four starts, the Patriots will hit the quarter pole with the same 2-2 mark they owned after four games last season. And we all know how that turned out.

Want to talk more about these and other headlines? Join Michael Lombardo for his weekly NFL Chat on Friday at 2pm EST. But you don’t have to wait until then …you can ask your question now


About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has spent more than 10 years as a team expert at Scout.com, primarily covering the Chargers, Cardinals and Panthers. He has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and other venues.