Just a few months ago, Falcons defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman was starting next to Dwight Freeney in Super Bowl LI.
After his domestic violence case was fully adjudicated and he was suspended by the league, the Atlanta Falcons released Hageman, a former second-round draft pick, on Monday.
“As an organization, we weren’t comfortable with where things were,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “It’s an ongoing investigation with the league so I won’t comment much further past that.”
The case started in March of 2016. The Falcons kept Hageman through the entire season while the case made its way through the court system. They’ve known about it for awhile, but some new information was obtained by the team recently that shed more light on the situation.
“Just the information that we got later, at this time, we were not comfortable with having him as a member of the team,” Quinn said. “Past that, it’s still under review and I can’t comment about that. But definitely it took a long time.”
Hageman was selected with the 37th overall pick in the 2014 draft. He was expected to add some bulk and tenacity to the Falcons’ defensive line.
Courtney Upshaw will fill the role created by Hageman no longer being on the team.
“Inside, especially in the nickel package we’ll feature (Grady) Jarrett, (Dontari) Poe, (Jack) Crawford and then we slide Courtney Upshaw inside there quite a bit,” Quinn said. “That’s what takes place in the nickel package. In the base package, it’s kind of the same program where Crawford and Poe would be another guy who could play inside. We are fortunate at that position this year that it worked out like it did and we had good depth at a couple of spots.”
The players seem to understand the team’s plight.
“I have faith in everybody in the room,” Crawford said. “I think we are going to be fine. Obviously, it hurts and we are all kind of praying and hoping that it goes smoothly for Shede.
“We haven’t forgotten about him in the room. He had a big impact on and off the field. For us, we have a job to do. We have to keep moving. We are going to have to pick up some reps between the group.”
Hageman was valued in the locker room, even though there were concerns about his work ethic.
“He was a valuable guy,’ safety Ricardo Allen said. “He was a guy who fit right in with our defensive line. You can put him in there and he was going to win one-on-one battles and he was going to win double teams. We have people who can go in and are ready to play at a high level.”
The Falcons drafted Hageman, despite warnings of a lack of maturity and work ethic issues, from his days at Minnesota. But after working the Senior Bowl, the Falcons fell in love with Hageman and former defensive line coach Bryan Cox felt he could motivate Hageman.
An anonymous scout told Bob McGinn, then of the Journal Sentinel about Hageman, before the draft:
“Those guys on that line at Minnesota played hard. Except him, he's kind of fooling around. He had two sacks the whole year and he's probably the most talented physical specimen in the Big Ten at the position. He has no feel on the pass rush. He just throttles it down whenever he gets stymied. If things don't go (his way) he just stops. You've got your hands full coaching him. I just don't think mentally it's there."
The Falcons found out early about Hageman’s motor on Hard Knocks, who cameras recorded Cox telling coach Mike Smith on the sidelines about Hageman's poor performance in a scrimmage: “He made some mistakes and then he got tired and then he was mentally weak. So that wasn’t good. I told him I’m disappointed and discouraged but I ain’t defeated. It ain’t good enough.”
Cox later told Hageman as they left a meeting: “I need to see less clown class and more productiveness.”
Hageman was a load to block when he was firing hard.
Hageman and Cox would later getting in a shoving match during a game against the Carolina Panthers during the 2015 season.
He played in 44 regular season games and made 15 starts. He has four career sacks, but at 6-foot-6 and 318 pounds should have dominated more.
Things started to unravel for Hageman in March of 2016 when was involved in a domestic violence case in DeKalb County.
“Today the NFL placed Ra’Shede Hageman on the commissioner’s exempt list as a result of domestic violence-related charges filed by prosecutors in DeKalb County, following a March 2016 incident,” the league noted on Saturday. “The criminal proceeding concluded in late August, and the league’s investigation remains pending.”
A player who is placed on the Commissioner Exempt List may not practice or attend games, but with the club’s permission he may be present at the club’s facility on a reasonable basis for meetings, individual workouts, therapy and rehabilitation, and other permitted non-football activities.
Hageman was reluctant to discuss his case when it was pending. He allegedly pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges.
The incident was with the mother of his child. Hageman was charged with interfering with a call for emergency help, battery family violence and cruelty to children in the third degree.
The charges stem from an incident in which Hageman pulled the hair of the mother of his child and pushed her down in the parking lot outside of her apartment, causing her to sustain lacerations on her left hand and elbow. Hageman then took her phone, preventing her from calling 911. This incident happened in front of the couple's child.