Bears Get Up-Close Look At TE Jeremy Sprinkle, Who Addresses Character Questions Head On

By Chris Emma–

(CBS) Embarrassment sank through Arkansas tight end Jeremy Sprinkle immediately after the great mistake that ended his collegiate career.

One month later, it’s still there. Sprinkle is trying to salvage his reputation.

Sprinkle was suspended for what would’ve been the final game of his career, the Belk Bowl, when he was arrested for shoplifting eight items worth $260 dollars from a Belk store in December, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police. Members of the Arkansas and Virginia Tech football team were given $450 to spend as part of their bowl game package. He took more than allotted.

Such a mistake was out of character, Sprinkle has been telling teams in advance of the NFL Draft. Sprinkle understands his stock will hurt if he’s not open about the error in judgement.

“Just being up front and honest with them, telling them the story about what happened,” Sprinkle said. “That’s really all I can do. (Teams) understand it was out of my character to do that. They’re pretty understanding about it.”

Sprinkle began his attempt to prove himself last week in Mobile, Alabama, participating with the North team at the Senior Bowl.

The 6-foot-6, 256-pound Sprinkle is a monster in the open field, a dangerous threat for any NFL offense. He views himself as a mismatch in the passing game who “can stick my nose in there and block” too.

“I’m trying to prove I’m an all-around tight end,” Sprinkle said.

The Bears got an up-close look at Sprinkle during their North team workouts at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, and they got the advantage no other team could in Mobile, getting to see Sprinkle behind the scenes too.

Coach John Fox spoke of the benefits to seeing players in meeting rooms, getting to know them over dinner and receiving a better glance at character. All of that could make Sprinkle a more draftable player in their mind.

Chicago could be looking for a tight end in the middle rounds to create a tandem alongside veteran Zach Miller. The Bears could be looking at Sprinkle on their board.

In addition to the character fit, the Bears saw how Sprinkle fits into their offense, which he pointed out was similar to his system at Arkansas.

“I feel like it’s a good opportunity, just learning the plays and things,” Sprinkle said of playing for the Bears last week.

Alabama standout O.J. Howard proved to be the best tight end at the Senior Bowl and one of the top overall players. He appears to be the top tight end in the draft class and could go in the middle or late first round. His abilities would fit just about any team.

On the other hand, Sprinkle has seen his stock fall to the middle rounds, and his character questions may drop him to Day 3. Perhaps the breakout rookie season of former Razorbacks tight end Hunter Henry could benefit Sprinkle.

The Bears saw Sprinkle’s talents as a tight end and and had a glimpse at his character up close. Now, Sprinkle is ready to move past his lapse of judgement and prove himself in the league

“I’m just trying to get past it and show (the NFL) who I really am,” he said, “show them it was out of my character.”

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

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