You see it every offseason. Football analysts throughout the vast football analyst world will mock a troubled player to the Lions or speculate that the Lions will sign a trouble player in free agency. Earlier this week Pro Football Rumors threw their hat in the ring of this theory by selecting the Detroit Lions as one of their eight teams they believe will sign Greg Hardy.
You can't blame their reasoning for doing it. At least not in a football sense. Despite being a poor human being, Greg Hardy is a talented football player. In a world where a player of his caliber has done nothing wrong, he would be a welcomed addition. But that world doesn't exist. Hardy is just the tip of the iceberg. The Lions have also been linked to Josh Gordon, Ray Rice and Robert Nkemdiche in recent history.
Somewhere along the line the Lions adopted this moniker of "the dirty team" or "criminals." You can actually trace it back to one year in particular when the Lions had no excuse and their world fell apart from the inside. That year is 2011. Yes the year the Lions finally made it back to the playoffs. The Lions finished the season in third place for accepted penalties. The Falcons and Bears both spoke publicly about the Lions "dirty play." Jim Schwartz tried to attack Jim Harbaugh. The infamous Suh Stomp happened, and the Lions embarrassed themselves with multiple penalties and Titus Young's shoving of a ref in a primetime game.
It only got worse from there in 2012 when Johnny Culbreath started the craziest trend in Detroit sports history when he was arrested for marijuana possession. Following that incident, Nick Fairley, Mikel Leshoure and Aaron Berry were all arrested for a myriad of issues. In Fairley and Berry's case, they were arrested twice in the span of two months. If it had been guys that were on the practice squad, I doubt anyone would have batted an eye. But these were starters and in Fairley's case, a star player at the time.
Lastly you can't forget Titus Young putting a cherry on top of everything when he seemingly lost his mind during the 2012 season after a breakout rookie campaign. Titus was cut from the team and went on to get arrested more times than anyone cares to remember. He is now facing some serious prison time.
The unfortunate reaction to this action is to call the Lions a "dirty team" or "criminals." You can't blame anyone for that. It's completely true. The Lions were a dirty team that had way too many starters that spent the offseason in courtrooms. Where you can start to play the blame game is when you notice that four years later, this is believe to still be the case. Here are few reasons why it isn't.
This stance has been repeated over and over again by the Lions since the final year of Jim Schwartz's tenure. It's been echoed once again by the Lions new general manager Bob Quinn since his introduction to the team in January. The Lions have a zero tolerance policy in effect. Most think that is simply a domestic abuse policy. But it applies to drugs and crime as well. Any player who breaks this rule will be sent packing. Rodney Austin is a clear example of this. Austin was arrested on assault charges in 2015 and released from the team later in the week
The best way to combat the problem of having players arrested or players that play dirty is to only select players with high character. For as much as the Lions have done wrong in the draft in recent history, there is no denying they've cleaned up their act in regards to character. Laken Tomlinson, Ezekiel Ansah and Darius Slay are great examples of that. The Lions now have a presence on the field and in the community that they've not had in a long while.
Penalties are down
There was a time that Lions fans couldn't get excited about anything the team did on the field because they had to wait to see if a flag was thrown first. I suppose this is still the case for some, myself included. This is simply because the Lions spent three years in the top echelon of the league in penalties. Since those years, the Lions have got their penalty problems under control in terms of frequency. They still manage to commit them at the worst possible time. Still you have to be happy that the Lions were able to go from third in penalties to 20th this past season.
Those guys are gone
What do all the aforementioned arrested and dirty players have in common? They don't play in Detroit anymore. Ndamukong Suh leaving for Miami should have theoretically rid the team of it's dirty moniker altogether. As you can see, he's still the same old Suh in South Beach. Nick Fairley and Titus Young parting with the team has kept "Detroit Lions" and "courtroom" out of the same sentence for some time. That's not to say the Lions didn't still have some bad apples. Austin and Amari Spievey caused issues, but you can never tell what a player might wake up and do one day. The important part is that they are gone now.
What do you think Lions fans? What did I leave out? Do you still think the team is dirty? Be sure to leave your comments below or come chat with me on Twitter @POD_Payton.