PHILADELPHIA — Running back Joe Mixon, suspended for the 2014 season after hitting a woman at a café in Norman, Oklahoma, has repeatedly vowed he never will let something like this happen again and that he can be trusted to be a responsible member of the NFL. He’ll get to show whether he truly is reformed after being drafted Friday by the Bengals in the second round, a team known to give chances to controversial players with questionable backgrounds.
Mixon was arrested in July, 2014 and charged with misdemeanor assault for punching a woman in the face and breaking four bones. Video of the incident was made public in December, 2016. And while Mixon did not serve time in prison, he was barred from playing for a year by Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. Mixon was reinstated in 2015 and was the Sooners’ leading rusher in 2016 with 1,274 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“I don’t know who isn’t disgusted at what they saw,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said Friday night about the video. “But that’s one day in the young man’s life.”
Mixon was emotional about the chance to begin his NFL career.
“I’m still sitting here crying,” he told reporters after being drafted. “I can’t believe it.”
Mixon said the 2014 incident “changed me a lot as a person. How you think. How you carry yourself. How you go about things.”
While many NFL teams didn’t even have Mixon on their draft boards because of what happened, the Bengals didn’t hide their interest in him. The Broncos also were reported to be interested in Mixon.
The Bengals either have signed or drafted several players with off-field issues. Cornerback Pacman Jones, wide receiver Chris Henry, defensive tackle Tank Johnson and linebacker Vontaze Burfict have all served suspensions imposed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Bengals owner Mike Brown, when asked about Jones’ arrest in January for disorderly conduct after he allegedly pushed a security guard and head-butted a police officer, offered a window into his thinking about players who break the law.
“Maybe I am overly tolerant,” he said. “If so, so be it.”
Drafting Mixon will only reinforce that line of thinking.
Another running back who previously has been arrested, Dalvin Cook of Florida State, also was taken in the second round. The Vikings moved up to select Cook, adding him to a backfield that recently signed free-agent Latavius Murray. The Vikings previously released former All Pro running back Adrian Peterson.
Cook was arrested as a juvenile for robbery in 2009, and was charged with misdemeanor battery for allegedly punching a woman in 2015 outside a Tallahassee bar. A jury found Cook not guilty, and he has no convictions on his record.
The other big-name player drafted Friday was Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer, who was taken in the second round by the Browns. Cleveland had shown interest in North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky, and debated whether to take him first overall. But the team instead took Texas A & M pass-rusher Myles Garrett with the top choice before the Bears traded up to the second spot to take Trubisky. After highly rated quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs) and Deshaun Watson (Texans) went later in the first round, the Browns settled on Kizer, who has a big arm and terrific running ability, but also has accuracy issues. He threw a combined 19 interceptions in his previous two seasons at Notre Dame, and completed only 58.7 percent of his passes last year.