It's rarely a good sign when the first question to the GM about the player he just drafted is: ''Has he been charged with anything?''
Temple tight end Evan Rodriguez comes to the Bears with significant baggage. He was accused of felony assault at West Virginia after an alleged altercation with a female residence hall advisor. He transferred to Temple as a result of that incident. At Temple, he was arrested for disorderly conduct and also missed one game for breaking a team rule.
But the Bears say that extensive background research with trainers, coaches, former trainers and former coaches, and even with Rodriguez himself, have allayed fears about his character. Rodriguez said that's all in the past.
''We all make mistakes,'' the 6-1 1/2, 244-pound Rodriguez said. ''It's growing pains as long as you learn from your mistakes ... They believed in me. I'm just happy to get the opportunity. I'm not going to let them down.''
With his size and speed (4.56 in the 40), Rodriguez is a hybrid player with big-play ability. He had 35 receptions for 479 yards (13.7 yards per catch) and two touchdowns for Temple last season, including a 55-yard touchdown catch against Toledo.
''You can put me in any situation. I'm a coachable guy,'' Rodriguez said. ''The coaches tell me to do something and I'm going to do it, no questions asked.''
Bears general manager Phil Emery said Rodriguez will be used as a fullback and ''move'' tight end -- someone who can play inside and out, like the Colts' Dallas Clark or the Patriots' Aaron Hernandez.
''We needed somebody with enough blocking outside that he could force the defense to stay in base personnel. We really believe that Evan provides that for us,'' Emery said. ''He runs a 4.56 40. He definitely provides a stretch. When given the ball as a receiver he has had big plays. A great game to go back and watch if you haven't seen Evan is against the University of Maryland, where he had 50-plus yards after the catch. he had several of those this year.''
Rodriguez has been compared to Hernandez, the 6-1, 245-pound Patriots tight end who caught 79 passes for 910 yards and seven touchdowns with the Patriots last season.
Does Emery see him as a Hernandez type of player?
"Evan thinks he is. I'll tell you that,'' Emery said. ''When we brought him into the building I met with him and asked him, 'Who do you compare yourself with.' He said, 'Hernandez.' I said, 'OK, let's look that up.' So we got right into our system and he's I think 7/8 of an inch shorter. I think they're right at the same speed. He's the exact same weight. They're both East Coast guys. They both have some background to them. So there is some comparisons. We'll let him play first before we say he's as good as a pro. But yeah, there are comparisons."
Speaking of comparisons, Rodriguez is the first tight end the Bears have drafted in the fourth round since they took Oklahoma State's Alonzo Mayes -- who was the top tight end in that draft but slipped after testing positive for marijuana at the scouting combine.
The Bears were convinced Mayes would not be a problem and he wasn't. Unfortunately, though he wasn't as bad as feared off the field, he wasn't as good as expected on the field. Mayes was cut early in the 2000 season after making little impact.