Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Lions accept their problem, but now what?
By Kevin Seifert
Perhaps you've heard the saying: Acceptance is the first step toward change. By all accounts, the Detroit Lions have that part covered as they deal with a series of offseason incidents that have embarrassed the franchise.
Speaking Tuesday to local reporters, coach Jim Schwartz left little doubt that he has a problem on his hands. Schwartz said he was "concerned" and "angry" about six incidents involving members of his 2011 draft class, and acknowledged as a group that a line has been crossed between "affecting yourself and affecting your own reputation and affecting teammates and affecting the organization."
"We have 90 guys out here working, most of which are doing a very good job and working with a good goal in mind," Schwartz said. "But the actions of a few have affected the reputations of not just the other guys in the 90, but also the organization as a whole and that's not a good situation."
In relative terms, acceptance is the easy part. By far, however, the more difficult task is addressing and correcting the problem. Schwartz didn't have much to say on that topic, other than to note there are "certain criteria" that receiver Titus Young must meet to continue practicing with the team. And in truth, Schwartz is limited by collectively-bargained rules governing discipline for legal matters and substance abuse in the offseason.
Fair or not, some of the responsibility will lie with veteran teammates to model appropriate conduct and mentor the younger players. But especially in the offseason, most of it will come down to whether Nick Fairley, Young, Mikel Leshoure and, to a lesser extent, Johnny Culbreath, can get themselves under control.
All four players were at the team facility for Tuesday's OTA, which in a counterintuitive way might have been the best place for them. Much in the way parents run their toddlers through parks to wear them out for bedtime, NFL teams can limit the social ambitions of young players by working them hard on the field.
Schwartz said he spoke Tuesday morning with Fairley about his second arrest in two months, and Young was back on the field after apologizing to teammates for a reported fight with safety Louis Delmas. But Lions security officials escorted both players off the field and away from reporters after practice, robbing us of an opportunity to judge whether Fairley or Young understand the magnitude of their mistakes.
Over on Twitter, @Jason_Decker suggested the Lions "don't have faith in them to say the right things. If they were remorseful there would b no reason to shield." I don't disagree, and if that's the case, you wonder when the Lions will feel confident that they have a handle on the situation.
Hope isn't a strategy, but right now it's all the Lions have. They're hoping these guys will get it, sooner rather than later. If they planned to release, suspend or demote one or more of the offending players, they would have done it by now. Short of that, however, resolution is mostly out of the Lions' control. That's a scary thought.