Friday, February 18, 2011
As tampering cases go, Lions' is mild
By Kevin Seifert
If you thought we were going to make it to the end of this week without some kind of drama, well, you're reading about the wrong division. On Friday, the NFL announced it has stripped the Detroit Lions of a 2011 seventh-round draft pick and forced them to move lower in the fifth round after finding them guilty of tampering with a Kansas City Chiefs player widely reported to be safety Jarrad Page.
The Lions will swap fifth-round positions with the Chiefs, who will now have the No. 9 pick of the round while the Lions must wait until the No. 23 slot.
The league noted that Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, who once held the same job for the Chiefs, was quoted by the Detroit Free Press as saying he would be interested in signing some Chiefs players if they were released. At the time, Page was on his way to becoming a restricted free agent. He refused to sign his tender and was traded to the New England Patriots in September.
The quote in question was published Feb. 14, 2010, but attributed to an interview late in the 2009 season. Here it is: "They keep wanting to dump players. I would like to be there to catch a lot of them, because I know a couple of those guys. ... Some of those young kids I coached, I really believed they were going to be good players, and I know I'm right about that."
The league indicated its punishment wasn't based solely on that quote. It also found that the Lions had "impermissible contact with a player (or his agent) under contract to the Chiefs," according to its release. The NFL did not specify those circumstances. Dave Birkett of the Free Press reported Page was the player in question.
The deadline for appealing the ruling is Feb. 28.
I'm not going to get too worked up about losing a seventh-round pick and 14 spots in the fifth round. (The seventh-rounder, by the way, was part of the 2010 trade that brought cornerback Alphonso Smith to the Lions.) The NFL takes tampering quite seriously, and assuming this is the only punishment after more than six months of investigation, the Lions should feel fortunate.