The Detroit Lions’ 5-0 start to the 2011 NFL season saw fans around the league jumping on the bandwagon. The Lions were the lovable perennial losers who were finally about to turn it around. Yet a string of incidents beginning with Ndamukong Suh’s infamous “face stomp” have changed those perceptions.
To fans outside of Detroit, the Lions are now thugs. They’re a team of drunk-driving potheads led by a coach who can’t control himself during a post-loss handshake. The situation finally came to a head when CB Aaron Berry was arrested for the second time in 30 days when he allegedly brandished a gun on July 22. Lions’ brass finally broke from their established pattern of “we’re still investigating this issue,” and released Berry the following day. But what did they really accomplish?â€¨â€¨
Let’s first talk about what the move doesn’t do.
It doesn’t send a message to any of the players who need it. Mikel LeShoure and Nick Fairley each earned themselves two arrests this summer, yet their roster spots are as safe as ever.
It doesn’t even establish that on-field performance can make up for off-field problems, as LeShoure hasn’t stepped on an NFL field and Fairley’s real impact so far has been comparable to Berry’s.
It certainly doesn’t make the Detroit Lions a better football team. For all of Berry’s faults, reports indicate that he was a front-runner for a starting role at the Lions weakest position. The Lions are now left with Alfonso Smith, Jacob Lacey (a castoff from the 2-win Colts), and two mid-round rookies competing for one starting position, nickelback, and depth in case of injuries.
The CB position is objectively weaker minus Berry. And it’s certainly not going to change the league-wide perception of the Lions.
It takes a huge fan to pay attention to NFL news in July, let alone Aaron Berry news.â€¨â€¨
So what did the Lions achieve?
From my vantage point, all they’ve gained is an increased sense of entitlement among the players that really needed to be reigned in. Players like Fairley and LeShoure were superstars in college. They were top performers who became high draft picks. They were projected for stardom before stepping on the field. They’re better than other people; consequences don’t apply.
This kind of attitude is reinforced when they see Aaron Berry, a no-name player despite being a contributor on the field, kicked to the curb for behaving the same way they did over the offseason. A move that was apparently made to send a message of accountability may produce the opposite results.â€¨â€¨
I’m not saying that Berry’s a stand-up guy. I’m not trying to argue that he doesn’t deserve every punishment he’s gotten. But if the Lions want to win games, improve their image, and assert some authority over their locker room, this move only puts them further away.
UPDATE: Profootballtalk is now reporting that the Lions’ fifth-round rookie CB Chris Greenwood will be starting training camp on the PUP list. Just another reason to dislike this move.