Under the agreement, Berry was to perform 20-40 hours of community service in a six-month period and submit to an alcohol evaluation. What happens to that agreement after his most recent arrest is unclear, but one thing became very evident on Monday: Whatever Berry does from here on out, he won't be doing it as a member of the Lions, who released him on Monday.
"Detroit Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew today announced that the team has terminated the contract of CB Aaron Berry due to personal conduct which adversely affects the club," the team said in a statement. "'We have repeatedly stressed to everyone in our organization that there will be appropriate consequences when an expected standard of behavior is not upheld,' Lions President Tom Lewand said."
Berry's second arrest of the offseason was the seventh overall of a Lions player in the last few months, and came amidst growing concern that there's nobody in charge at Lions HQ. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley has been busted for DUI and marijuana possession in two separate incidents, running back Mikel Leshoure has two pot busts of his own, and offensive lineman Johnny Culbreath has one marijuana possession arrest of his own.
The Lions obviously can't release everyone on their team who has traipsed on the wrong side of the law this offseason -- Fairley is a first-round pick from 2011, and Leshoure is expected to be one of the team's primary backs in 2012. But the release of Berry is a pretty significant hit in a personnel sense -- with Eric Wright off to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Berry was expected to start at one cornerback position for a secondary that was a liability last season. Now, there will be a mish-mash through training camp and the preseason between five possible entrants: veterans Jacob Lacey and Alphonso Smith, as well as rookies Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green..
In June, and soon after one of Fairley's arrests, head coach Jim Schwartz addressed the overarching concern that the Lions were more about pure physical talent than off-the-field accountability.
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"Well there certainly is accountability, and that's always been the case, and there's a lot of different layers to that," Schwartz said. "There's a personal conduct policy, which is a league matter; there's team rules, there's team discipline; there's also a substance abuse program which is a league matter. So there's a lot of different layers to that discipline process, but I think what we have here is a case of a few guys tainting the reputations of a lot of others.
"We have 90 guys out here working, most of which are doing a very good job and working with a good goal in mind. 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."
That's true to a degree, and it's unfortunate that more isn't made of guys like Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, who have comported themselves with nothing but class through their careers. But you know how it is -- the squeaky wheel and all. And the Lions players who are living right are not at all happy about the reputation of the team.
"One Lions player told me just now: 'This s--- has to stop. We're becoming the laughing stock of not only the NFL but all of sports,'" CBS's Mike Freeman relayed on Monday.
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who has as much pure potential as any NFL player at any position, has had his own issues with on-field and off-field behavior getting in the way of his brilliance. As Suh recently told Yahoo! Sports' Mike Silver, it's time to turn this thing around.
"Everybody has to be accountable for themselves, and obviously we as teammates need to hold each other to a higher standard," Suh said in early July. "And that's being addressed, and some of our teammates will have to deal with repercussions from the league, and I think they'll handle that the right way and move forward and not let it truly affect us during the season."
Would that it were so. The Berry release could be a turning point for the blockheads on the team who are ruining things for everyone else, or it could be yet another indicator that nobody's in charge in Detroit. More than ever, it's up to the players in that locker room to police their neighbors and brothers. There's only so much a front office can do, and by releasing a starter at a key position of weakness, that front office has finally shown that it will take the high road.
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