FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- As Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff reflected on his nine draft picks Saturday evening, he found himself on the defensive about one in particular: outside linebacker Prince Shembo.
The fourth-round pick from Notre Dame was the center of a controversial case that involved an alleged inappropriate sexual encounter and ended with a young woman taking her own life. Shembo maintained his innocence when he addressed the issue via teleconference Saturday afternoon.
Dimitroff showed no regret about the decision to draft Shembo, regardless of what other players were on the board.
"We're very, very aware of the seriousness of the incident," Dimitroff said. "Obviously, it's a sad situation for the young lady involved. We've done a lot of research at many levels from our security standpoint, from all the research that we did at Notre Dame. And he was never charged, never suspended from the team or the school.
"We've done our due diligence as far as making sure that we felt very comfortable with making that decision. Only glowing endorsements from the university. And again, pleased to have him a part of this organization going forward."
Dimitroff said the Falcons did not send investigators to South Bend, Ind., to look into the incident.
"We used the NFL investigation as well as our own investigators through their processes, without going into the detail of how we acquire that information," Dimitroff said. "We're very confident about what we acquired."
Historically, Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith have been extremely careful in evaluating players in terms of character. Had there been any red flags or reason to believe the case could linger, the Falcons wouldn't have drafted Shembo.
Dimitroff asked if the character standards were relaxed in this case.
"Not one bit," he said. "Not one bit."