Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
After last year's nightmare of an offseason, the Detroit Lions can't afford to have similar distractions this year.
Dear Detroit Lions players (and other members of the organization),
Congratulations, gentleman. Another NFL season is in the books. While it was a disappointing season given that the Lions finished 4-12, you can add another year of NFL service to your résumé, and now you can start looking ahead to the 2013 season -- one that will hopefully be much better for the Lions.
Last year at this time, you guys were getting set for the Lions' first playoff appearance in more than a decade. Although the playoff "run" lasted only one game, the franchise carried a lot of positive momentum into the offseason after going 10-6 in the regular season and bringing that playoff drought to an end.
Hopes were high for what 2012 would have in store for the team, but the optimism ultimately faded after off-field incidents started piling up. Johnny Culbreath got the off-field issues started with a marijuana arrest, and then Mikel Leshoure and Nick Fairley each added two arrests (marijuana twice for Leshoure and marijuana and a DUI for Fairley). This turned the Lions into a laughing stock around the league, and the problems weren't even over yet. Aaron Berry added a DUI and an arrest for pulling a gun on people, and he ended up getting cut after the latter incident. Add on Titus Young allegedly sucker-punching Louis Delmas and you had a nightmare of an offseason off the field for the Lions.
Even after all of the incidents last offseason, the overall impact on the 2012 season seemed like it was going to be relatively low. Sure, Berry was gone because of his arrests and Leshoure received a suspension, but would this really become a distraction? Considering how rough the season went, it's fair to say the incidents did cause the Lions to lose their focus. Just ask Stephen Tulloch. From NFL.com:
"It started in the offseason, spending all that time on all those issues, and that wound up lingering into the season, those distractions," he said. "And then you look at it, and last year, a lot of things went our way, we were winning games the way we're losing them this year.
"I think discipline is the biggest issue, that kind of selfishness, it hurts the team," Tulloch said. "We've had guys hurt the team through their actions, and it lingered. We had Aaron Berry here, we were really counting on him, he gets dismissed, and now you need someone to fill in.
With this in mind, it's very, very important for you guys to stay out of trouble this offseason. The last thing the Lions need after such a rough regular season is to deal with more off-field issues in the offseason. More problems not only could result in more guys losing their job, but they could once again prove to be a distraction for the rest of the team. What's more, putting the Lions in the spotlight for being stupid and getting into trouble would be a very unselfish thing to do.
Given what happened last offseason, I just want to stress the importance of keeping your nose clean this offseason. Feel free to enjoy your time away from the game, but just be responsible. If you're going to go out and drink, call a cab, hire a driver or have a designated driver. Do not get into a car and drive after spending the night drinking. And if you're going to smoke marijuana, do it from the comfort of your own home and not out and about where police can nab you. Finally, if you have a disagreement with somebody, don't pull a gun or sucker punch them.
There are obviously many other ways you can find yourself in trouble, so please be aware of what you are doing and how your actions might negatively impact the team. The last thing any Lions fan wants to talk about this offseason is somebody getting arrested, so please, just stay out of trouble.
A wary Lions fan