Postseason picture:

Lions' offseason trouble adding up

The SportsXchange

Here's the stat that defines the Lions offseason: relevant free agents signed, 4; offseason arrests, 6.

Like it or not, fair or not, any momentum the Lions might have taken into the offseason from their 10-6 season and first playoff appearance since 1999 was derailed by a steady stream of drug busts and DUIs.

The latest came last Saturday when starting right cornerback Aaron Berry was arrested in Harrisburg, Pa. and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, causing damage to an unattended vehicle and failing to give information to the police.

The rest of the rap sheet looks like this:

Defensive tackle Nick Fairley: Charged with marijuana possession and DUI in separate incidents April 3 and May 27 in Mobile, Ala.

Running back Mikel Leshoure: Cited twice for marijuana possession Feb. 18 and March 12 in southwestern Michigan.

Offensive tackle Johnny Culbreath: Charged Jan. 23 in Orangeburg County, S.C. with marijuana possession.

Leshoure has already been suspended for the first two games of the season and docked an additional two weeks pay. Fairley, whose court date is July 31, is expected to get the same.

The Lions organization, also likely to face a sizeable fine from the league, is scrambling for answers.

They are limited in what they can do by the collective bargaining agreement, which puts the onus on the league office to dole out punishment in these matters. The Lions could terminate the contracts of these players, particularly the multiple offenders, citing conduct detrimental to the team.

But that seems harsh, especially when you are talking about two young, talented players entering their second seasons, who because of the lockout didn't have the benefit of the league's rookie orientation process.

Fans and media are pushing for general manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz to crack down, to tighten the discipline, but these incidents happened in the offseason, with the players away from the team.

"I think that one thing to keep in mind is, the issues we've had have been almost all young guys, guys that are coming off their rookie years," Schwartz said during OTAs last month. "It's obviously a big concern that the problems have come up more than once for a few guys. We've always had an approach of there's some maturing things that go on, there's some mistakes that guys make that they learn from and things like that.

"But what we have here is a situation that it appears that a couple guys haven't learned, and that is a concern. But they are still young and there's still a lot in front of them and we are hopeful that they can, with a lot of other means at their disposal and our disposal, be able to get this under control and be able to put it behind them."

Think about this, too: If Leshoure's two-game suspension and four-game fine wasn't a deterrent for the likes of Berry, what else could the team do that would be worse, short of releasing them?

"This is not the standard of behavior we expect from any member of our organization," read a statement released by the Lions following Berry's arrest. "We have strongly and repeatedly emphasized the need to be accountable on and off the field, which makes this incident with Aaron all the more disappointing."

Don't think for a minute that this isn't causing Schwartz major grief. He prides himself on being disciplined, on managing and preparing for every situation imaginable. He has intimated that the offending players, particularly Leshoure and Fairley, were down to their last strikes.

"I think what we have here is a case of a few guys tainting the reputations of a lot of others," he said. "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

"I'm a lot of things with this -- concerned, angry, there's a lot of different words. It's disappointing when our story is not about guys like Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler, Jeff Backus, Rob Sims -- and I can keep going on and on. Unfortunately with situations like this, we all take ownership of problems that come to light that affect everybody."
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