The advent of social media and a 24-hour news cycle have made it all but impossible for NFL players to maintain their privacy, especially when it involves legal matters.

ESPN analyst Andrew Brandt, who spent 10 years as a vice president for the Green Bay Packers, recalled some legends of the franchise voicing their relief at having played in the days when a transgression would go unreported.

"I remember one former player saying, 'I'm glad they didn't have cellphone cameras when I played,' " Brandt said. "That's not an excuse for anything that happens now. Players know more now than they knew in the past. They know how scrutinized they are, so they should have a heightened awareness to that."

When 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith was arrested for allegedly making a bomb threat at Los Angeles International Airport on April 13, a cellphone video of Smith talking with law enforcement was on the website TMZ within hours of the incident.

Troy Vincent, the NFL executive director of football operations, declined to discuss the Smith incident directly, but in general believes nonstop exposure can be a good thing that comes out of a bad circumstance.

"Those things that happen in the dark that come to light can allow us to address an issue or a challenge we'd never face if it wasn't captured on a phone or by video," Vincent said. "If we see someone getting captured, getting handcuffed, it allows us to say, 'OK, what can we do?' And for the individual to think, 'Maybe it's time (to seek help).' "


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NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly, a former NFL general manager with the Texans and Redskins, said there's no question more issues become public, but he is concerned over instances when there isn't enough information to draw a conclusion.

"We might have headlines that we learn are not factual as time goes on," Casserly said. "And then it gets emphasized more because of the age we live in."

When 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was named in a TMZ report on April 11 as having participated in an alleged sexual assault, Kaepernick used social media for his own defense, calling the report, "completely wrong. They made up things about me that never happened."

No charges have been filed, with Miami police labeling it a "suspicious incident."

Coach Jim Harbaugh is critical of how Kaepernick's situation was reported.

"At some point there needs to be a resolution to some of this jump-the-gun witch-hunt scenario we're seeing," Harbaugh said. "Winston Churchill had a great quote. 'A lie will get halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put on its pants.'

"The only victim in this case is Colin's reputation."

Former Raiders quarterback and CBS analyst Rich Gannon said although players are educated about the pitfalls of social media and their responsibility as professional athletes, mistakes will probably continue to be made.

"Any time something happens, people are taking pictures of it and they're tweeting about it," Gannon said. "You've got young people 21, 22 years old, and you give them a lot of money and then they've got free time on their hands -- particularly in the offseason. That's not a good combination."

Immaturity, Gannon believes, is the root cause of most NFL off-field issues.

"You look at a guy like Aldon Smith, and aside from just doing the right thing and exercising some common sense, there's a real lack of understanding and maturity to understand this business is fleeting. His earning potential is not 20 years.

"It's typically four, five, or six years. ... It's so sad."

Cam Inman contributed to this report.