Monday, July 23, 2012
Lions have clear choice now on Aaron Berry
By Kevin Seifert
In some ways, cornerback Aaron Berry has made it easy on the Detroit Lions. Over the weekend, he handed them a gift. Consider it the Lions' first break of the 2012 season.
To this point, the Lions have opted against their only option for major discipline in dealing with their too-long list of arrested players this offseason. The NFL handles suspensions and fines, leaving teams to decide if they want to continue employing the player. Berry -- along with Mikel Leshoure, Nick Fairley and Johnny Culbreath -- all remained on the roster as of early Monday morning.
Cutting a player for an off-field transgression isn't routine in the NFL, but it does happen. Perhaps the Lions were concerned about precedent. Maybe they didn't think any of the offenses rose to the level of termination. Something was clearly holding them back.
That obstacle, whatever it was, should no longer exist. Berry's latest arrest, this time on charges of simple assault in an incident that involved a firearm, gives the Lions more than a fair justification for release. It's an obvious way to raise the stakes and grab the attention of players who, in at least some cases, are exhibiting poor judgment at a time of high scrutiny.
The Lions would hardly need an explanation. No one in their locker room would be surprised, and the timing would set an appropriate tone for the opening of training camp later this week. Otherwise, Berry's continued employment would be a tacit endorsement of his behavior and leave us to wonder what -- if anything -- would compel the Lions to fire a player other than poor performance on the field.
I can understand the initial reluctance to start jettisoning promising talent as a result of this offseason run. Culbreath's offense was minor from a legal perspective, while Leshoure and Fairley were high 2011 draft picks. Berry is the top candidate to win the starting cornerback job vacated by the departed Eric Wright.
But unless this latest incident proves a complete misunderstanding, the Lions no longer need to waffle on the issue of roster termination. Aaron Berry made it easy on them.