DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 16: Nick Fairley #98 of the Detroit Lions runs off the field during a NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers at Ford Field on October 16, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. The 49ers won 29-15 (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)
It has not been a good offseason for a select group of Detroit Lions players, at least when it comes to off-field issues. The Lions have had a total of five arrests this offseason involving their players, all of whom belong to the 2011 draft class. This has prompted a lot of talk about the Lions having a discipline problem, so I decided to dive into the San Diego Union-Tribune's NFL arrests database, which goes back to 2000, in hopes of shedding some light on how bad this offseason has really been for the team. After the jump are some interesting stats that I discovered while looking through the database.
- From 2000-2011, there were only seven total arrests involving Lions players. (The number would be higher for the entire organization if you include the 2006 arrests involving former Lions assistant Joe Cullen and team president Tom Lewand's DUI in 2010, but this database is strictly for players' run-ins with the law.)
- Since January, there have been five arrests involving Lions players. It's important to note that two players are responsible for four of the five arrests. Mikel Leshoure had two separate incidents within a month's time involving marijuana, and Nick Fairley has now had two incidents in a span of nearly two months (marijuana possession and his DUI over the weekend). The other arrest was from Johnny Culbreath being caught with marijuana back in January.
- Prior to this offseason, the Lions were actually tied with the St. Louis Rams for the fewest arrests involving players (seven) among all NFL teams since 2000, according to USA Today.
- It turns out that the Lions aren't even the worst team in the NFC North for arrests in the last year or so. The Minnesota Vikings have had eight arrests involving their players since Jan. 2011. To be fair, though, two players (Chris Cook and Everson Griffen) were responsible for half of those arrests.
- If you go back to 2000, there have been 38 arrests involving Vikings players, which is the most for any NFL team in the last 11-plus years. The Cincinnati Bengals barely came in second with 37 arrests since 2000.
What does all of this mean? For starters, there are a lot of players in the NFL who can't stay out of trouble. What about for the Lions specifically? Well, it depends on your point of view. On the one hand, even with the bad offseason, the Lions have only had 12 arrests involving players since 2000, which still puts them among the best in the NFL. Teams like the Vikings and Bengals have had constant off-field issues for more than a decade now, whereas the Lions' alarming issues have basically been confined to the last four months. What's more, two players are responsible for all but one of the Lions' arrests, so it's not as if there are five different players who have been in trouble.
The flip side is that the Lions' recent issues could be a sign of trouble rather than a brief slip-up. Obviously, it's too early to tell if this is truly the case, but you could certainly make an argument that the Lions' character gambles in the 2011 NFL Draft are coming back to haunt them, especially when you factor in Titus Young's alleged sucker punch on Louis Delmas a couple weeks back.
So which side of the argument is right? It really just depends on how you view things. Personally, the recent run-ins with the law do concern me, especially because Leshoure and Fairley have had multiple incidents. They obviously didn't learn the first time, which is troubling. At the same time, I find the idea that the Lions are a team full of criminals and miscreants to be extremely off base. While the arrests have been a problem this offseason, the fact of the matter is they've been limited to a very small part of the team (3.33 percent of the 90-man roster, to be exact). Labeling the Lions as the new Bengals isn't a fair assertion.
The most important thing for the Lions right now is that they need to make sure this ends up being a brief slip-up in an otherwise good track record. If it starts to become a regular thing where multiple players are consistently getting in trouble off the field over an extended period of time, then some of the comparisons to the Bengals (or Vikings, for that matter) will be fair. For now, this is merely a slip-up, but how the Lions conduct themselves in the coming months will ultimately determine whether or not it remains a slip-up or turns out to be the start of a bigger problem.