There are several people of questionable character in the NFL. You can probably point out the public examples as easily as I can, so we don't need to go into specifics. But as much as some teams try to keep their rosters squeaky-clean and other teams will take considerable risks on guys who play outside of the lines off the field if their on-field pedigree is relatively flawless, what you don't usually see is an entire team manning up on one guy and wanting him out.
But that's what seems to have happened in the case of Detroit Lions receiver Titus Young, who's been testing the limits with coaches and teammates all season, and has had an extended relationship with the healthy inactive list as a result. The public issues started in May, when he was kicked out of practice for sucker-punching safety Louis Delmas, and he's been persona non grata on and off since then.
The real scandal started when it was revealed that Young was lining up in the wrong places and running the wrong routes -- in a game, and on purpose -- in Detroit's Week 11 loss to the Green Bay Packers. He had a flare-up with receivers coach Shawn Jefferson on the sideline, and was benched for the final series. He was then banned from the facility on Nov. 19, and allowed back on the 28th.
"[He] just came out here today and worked," Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "That's what you have to do. Just start from square one and just go and just be here at practice, be here when you're supposed to be here, do all that kind of stuff and come out here, catch the ball and run around have some fun playing the game."
The fun didn't last long. On Friday, Young addressed the media with a series of short answers and "no comments" about his status with the team. Center Dominic Raiola, who is never shy about getting in the face of a teammate if it's warranted, had a far more expansive take on Young's tenure and future with the Lions.
"It's not a distraction because we have moved on from him. If he wants to be an [expletive], let him be an [expletive]. It's not my problem. What we can control is the guys who want to be here. I want people who want to be here and I think everybody else wants the same thing.
"The more we think about it, the more we talk about it, that's what holds this team back. We don't talk about it, we don't think about it, you know, we have a good group on offense. Don't be an [expletive]. Don't be a jerk. Just go with the flow."
Per the Detroit News, Raiola then pointed to Calvin Johnson and really put Young's actions in perspective.
"We've got the best player in the world over there. He should look no further than that to know how to act. If you are going to act like [Young has], you are done."
Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan did not say on Thursday whether his own sideline blowup with Jefferson during that Packers loss had to do with Young, but he did say that Young was back out on the practice field.
"Titus is practicing. We'll see. You can talk to [head coach] Jim [Schwartz] about who the active guys will be on Sunday. But he's back out on the practice field."
Schwartz has been relatively tight-lipped about the matter, as well, and that makes sense. No reason to make a disastrous situation even worse.
"I mean I think it's way too soon to tell and stuff like that," Schwartz said on Tuesday, when asked whether Young had played his last game in a Lions uniform. "But it's definitely going to be in his court when it comes to his actions and where it is."
Where the Lions can be faulted in Young's case is that the Boise State receiver had red flags all over him before Detroit took him in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft. This shouldn't come as any sort of surprise. Young was so far in Boise State head coach Chris Peterson's doghouse at times, you'd practically need to find him with a flashlight. He was benched for most of the 2008 season, and in the spring of 2011, I was told that one major pre-draft training organization booted him out of their facility within a few hours of his arrival because his attitude was so poor.
"I'll take a setback as a setup for a comeback," Young said in 2010. "I learned from my mistakes and it's unfortunate I wasn't on the field for that time, but I still have the opportunity to play right now and I'm looking forward to the future. That was the past, just keep on building, keep on playing, keep on practicing."
The setbacks are piling up for Titus Young. The comeback looks less realistic with each passing day.