JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said the team thoroughly investigated wide receiver Dede Westbrook before selecting him in the fourth round of the NFL draft and believes the former Oklahoma standout’s troubles are behind him.
But Caldwell also said he made it very clear to Westbrook that he has no margin for error after a pair of domestic violence arrests in 2012 and 2013.
“Obviously he’s had some issues earlier in his career [and] we feel that’s behind him — and it has to be behind him,” Caldwell said Saturday afternoon. “There’s no choice now. Obviously with coach [Doug] Marrone and coach [Tom] Coughlin here, there’s no margin for error for him off the field.”
According to the Tulsa World, Westbrook was arrested on Aug. 29, 2012, on a family violence complaint after a woman accused the 18-year-old Westbrook of grabbing her and throwing her to the ground. However, the Milam (Texas) County district attorney’s office rejected the charges four months later.
The Tulsa World reported that Westbrook, then 19, was arrested a second time, on April 26, 2013, after the mother of his two children accused Westbrook of biting her on the arm and punching her in the jaw. She admitted to grabbing him by the shirt in an attempt to keep him from leaving an apartment with her wallet.
The district attorney’s office filed misdemeanor family violence charges, but the newspaper reported the charges were eventually dismissed because of an inability to locate the woman.
Westbrook said he was open about what happened with teams during combine interviews and had an even more extensive conversation with the Jaguars during a pre-draft visit.
“I was honest with them right when I went in there,” Westbrook said. “We built the relationship from the start of it. They held their end of the bargain. Now it’s time for me to hold mine.”
Westbrook said he has matured significantly since his last arrest.
“I felt like my past, I’ve grown up, and I’ve learned a lot from it,” Westbrook said. “Of course, my past happened a few years ago, and it made me a lot wiser and made me think things over, so every situation I go about, I think it through twice or three times and get someone else’s opinion and make sure it’s correct all the way around.”
Westbrook caught 126 passes for 2,267 yards (18 yards per catch) and 21 touchdowns in two seasons at Oklahoma. He won the Biletnikoff Award — given to the country’s top receiver — and was one of five Heisman Trophy finalists last season.
Caldwell said the Jaguars felt Westbrook was a value pick in the fourth round because he has higher-round talent and fell because of the off-field concerns.
“I think we’ve done our due diligence enough to realize that’s behind him,” Caldwell said. “Like we said, all those charges were dropped. I think we’ve all been accused of things and had things — maybe not all of us — but plenty of us have been accused of things, but we don’t take it lightly.
“Obviously it’s a serious issue, and we just feel like that, at this point in time, give the kid a chance to make right.”