Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn said he has no concerns about new linebacker Jahlani Tavai’s character despite a 2018 arrest.
“You guys read the article, you know what it was,” Quinn said after Round 3 of the NFL draft Friday. “I think a lot of people in this room would have stepped in and tried to do the right thing as well. So it was unfortunate. He made a mistake and we are totally fine with him character-wise, 1,000%.”
Tavai was arrested at a Honolulu nightclub last June after he was accused of assaulting a man who allegedly pushed a woman to the ground, according to Hawaii News Now.
Quinn said the Lions brought Tavai in for a pre-draft visit in part to question him about the incident.
“Everybody in the building kind of sat down with him,” Quinn said. “He told the same exact story that he told us at the combine, so it was very consistent from Point A to Point B and he made a mistake.”
Tavai, who was suspended for the first game of Hawaii’s season last year for what was termed a violation of team rules, declined to provide details about the incident when asked about it in a conference call Friday.
The Lions used the 11th pick of the second round, No. 43 overall, to take Tavai.
“I’m trying not to think about that,” Tavai said. “The past is the past and right now I’ve learned from my mistake and I’m trying to move on right now and just show the Lions that I’m ready to go and I’m not allowing anything off the field to ever affect me again from missing time or anything like that.”
Quinn admitted Tavai was “probably off the radar a tiny bit” as a prospect, but defended using a second-round pick on the linebacker by saying Tavai filled a big need, and that other teams picking after the Lions were zeroing in on drafting him.
“That’s a position we really wanted to address,” Quinn said. “Like I said, not giving you every detail of what our draft board looks like, but linebackers that play in this defense that are really very, very good natural fits, there’s only a couple every year. So you wait a year, you don’t get one, you might not get him next year, you might not get him the year after. So this guy was a guy that we had targeted early on, I’d say as early as October.”
Finding linebackers for the Lions defense can be especially difficult because of the size requirements and versatility they want at the position.
Tavai stands a shade under 6 feet 3 and weighs 250 pounds. He topped 100 tackles in both the 2016-17 seasons, but had his senior season cut short by a shoulder injury that required surgery.
“We like thick-built linebackers,” Quinn said. “Really thick guys that can kind of take on blocks so that when they play on the edge they have enough playing strength and enough arm length to set the edge. Like, where (Devon) Kennard plays. He can go out there against good tight ends and hold the edge of the defense, which is crucially important. And then you see him play off the ball when you play him like (Jarrad Davis) or Christian (Jones), that’s the versatility.”