Bad press has been a common theme for the Detroit Lions this offseason. The team finally put together a winning season in 2011 and made the playoffs, and hope is high for the franchise as a whole going forward. However, a lot of the good things the Lions have done both on and off the field have been overshadowed by off-field incidents, most of which involve players from the 2011 draft class being arrested.
What exactly has occurred over the last four months to generate all of this bad press? Let's take a look at the timeline.
Jan. 23, 2012 - Johnny Culbreath became the first Lions player to be arrested in nearly four years when he was popped for possession of marijuana. The incident itself wasn't huge news at the time given the minor charge (he simply paid a $412 fine to close the case) and the fact that he isn't exactly a big-name player. (Culbreath was picked in the seventh round in 2011 and spent all of last season on injured reserve.) It turns out, though, that Culbreath's arrest was a sign of things to come.
Feb. 18, 2012 - Mikel Leshoure, who is also a member of the 2011 draft class and spent all of last season on injured reserve, joined Culbreath in the arrested-for-marijuana-possession club in February. Like Culbreath, the offense wasn't all that serious considering he simply paid a $485 fine to close the case. Amazingly, news of his arrest didn't become public knowledge for a month and a half.
March 8, 2012 - Although he wasn't arrested, Ndamukong Suh once again made headlines for having some issues on the road. Luckily, there was no accident this time, but Suh was ticketed for speeding (91 miles per hour in a 55 zone), improperly signaling and not having proof of insurance.
March 12, 2012 - The only reason Leshoure's arrest from Feb. 18 came out is because he was arrested again less than a month later. It took a few weeks for news of this particular arrest to come out, but once it finally did, we learned that Leshoure had been charged with second offense marijuana possession. To make matters worse, we also found out Leshoure tried to eat the weed he had on him in order to hide it. That didn't work, and Leshoure ultimately ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession. Originally, he was hit with a felony charge of marijuana possession and pleaded not guilty to it. With the misdemeanor charge, he paid a $575 fine and was required to show that he is in compliance with the NFL's treatment program, which initially involves 2-3 drug tests a week.
April 3, 2012 - Nick Fairley became the third member of the Lions' 2011 draft class to be caught with marijuana just a day after news of Leshoure's arrests became public knowledge. It was really bad timing in that regard, and in general it was just some really bad decision making on Fairley's part, as he ended up being charged with second-degree marijuana possession.
May ??, 2012 (specific date unknown) - Titus Young wasn't arrested like three of his fellow members of the 2011 draft class, but he did allegedly sucker punch Louis Delmas during an altercation at the Lions' facility a couple weeks back. Details of what exactly happened are scarce, but Young was not at last week's OTAs. There was a report claiming that the Lions haven't suspended Young, but other reports claim that the team has told him to stay away for a bit.
May 27, 2012 - Fairley joined Leshoure in an even more exclusive club on Sunday by being arrested for a second time this offseason. This particular incident didn't involve marijuana, but rather Fairley was arrested for driving under the influence and attempting to elude police. He was allegedly going 100 miles per hour and initially ignored the police's emergency lights and sirens. Once he did pull over, he ended up being hit with the aforementioned charges, and he was also cited for reckless driving, having an open container and not having proof of insurance.
Needless to say, this has not really been a good offseason for the Lions off the field. While only two players are responsible for most of these incidents, the fact is that only one member of the Lions' 2011 draft class (Doug Hogue) hasn't been in some kind of trouble this offseason. That is not a good trend, especially when you consider that Leshoure and Fairley are both facing possible suspensions.
As discussed in an earlier post, the Lions need to take steps to ensure that this trend of off-field incidents doesn't continue and become a bigger problem. Right now, these incidents appear to simply be missteps by players on a team that hasn't typically had a great deal of problems in the past. The hope is obviously that the players will clean up their act and not have any more problems going forward, thus making this nothing more than a four-month window of some errors in judgment. If stuff like this continues, however, it will be tough to ignore the claims that the Lions have a serious problem on their hands.