FLOWERY BRANCH — New coach Dan Quinn believes the Atlanta Falcons made the right decision to cut ties immediately with Prince Shembo after the linebacker was arrested last week for killing a dog.
The team waived Shembo last Friday, the same day he turned himself in at the Gwinnett County Detention Center on a cruelty to animals charge.
“We felt it was best for us to handle the things we could on the field and then also for him to handle the things he needed to do off the field,” Quinn said Tuesday after the team’s workout.
Shembo’s quick departure shows that the Falcons are still sensitive to animal abuse eight years after star quarterback Michael Vick served an 18-month federal prison sentence for running a dogfighting ring.
The charges against Vick caused a national uproar over dogfighting in 2007. That same year, Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, who’s still with the team, was arrested for his alleged involvement in the death of his girlfriend’s dog, but the charges were later dropped.
A report from the Gwinnett sheriff’s office said that Shembo killed the tiny Yorkshire Terrier on April 15. Quinn and the Falcons didn’t learn of the incident until last Friday when the player was arrested. Jail records show that Shembo posted a $16,700 bond.
The Falcons drafted Shembo out of Notre Dame last year. He played in 16 games with three starts, but there were some off-the-field questions about Shembo coming out of college.
General manager Thomas Dimitroff selected Shembo despite a sexual misconduct incident in 2010 — the player’s freshman season — involving a St. Mary’s College student who later killed herself.
Dimitroiff, who declined to speak Tuesday with The Associated Press, said on draft day last year that the Falcons thought Shembo was worth a fourth-round pick.
“We’re very, very aware of the seriousness of the incident and obviously it’s a sad situation for the young lady involved,” Dimitroff said. “We’ve done a lot of research on many levels from our security standpoint, and from all the research we did at Notre Dame, he was never charged, never suspended from the team or the school.”
Falcons spokesman Reggie Roberts said team officials discuss off-the-field conduct requirements with players each offseason. Animal abuse awareness is part of the discussion.
Shembo’s release was the first serious off-the-field incident for the Falcons since Quinn was hired in February.
It doesn’t seem that Quinn had big plans in 4-3 scheme for Shembo, who was listed at strong-side linebacker behind Brooks Reed and O’Brien Schofield.
“We never like a player not be a part of what we’re doing,” Quinn said. “I think with everybody looking from outside in, we’ve got a pretty unique thing going here. So we’re bummed he’s not going to be able to be a part of it, but there are a terrific number of guys here ready to go.”
Quinn has overhauled an Atlanta defense that last year ranked last in total yards allowed, third-down efficiency and sacks and ranked sixth-worst in scoring.
The team drafted Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley with the No. 8 overall pick, LSU cornerback Jalen Collins in the second round and Clemson defensive tackle Grady Jarrett in the fifth.
Four veterans — Reed, Schofield, Justin Durant and Adrian Clayborn — were added to an experienced seven-man front that includes Babineaux, Paul Worrilow, Tyson Jackson, Paul Soliai, Kroy Biermann, Ra’Shede Hageman, Joplo Bartu, Malliciah Goodman and Stansly Moponga.