Coach Jim Schwartz isn’t happy about the rash of off-field issues in Detroit this year. And receiver Nate Burleson said Tuesday that the problems aren’t happening because Schwartz has been ambivalent when it comes to respecting the law.
“He’s told us everything,” Burleson said Tuesday, via Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press. “Everything that the NFL has told us he’s reiterated it time and time again. If people think that coach Schwartz hasn’t reminded us, not only about how big the microscope is but our resources to help us on and off the field, then people are mistaken.
But the problem could be that the Lions are taking chances on guys who may not be inclined to listen. Albert Breer of NFL Network recently explained that the risks regarding the team’s top three picks in 2011 — defensive tackle Nick Fairley, receiver Titus Young, and running back Mikel Leshoure — were well known.
“For those three, the signs and the flags were there — it’s not like they didn’t have issues,” an unnamed AFC personnel executive told Breer. “It shouldn’t be a huge surprise that these guys are having decision-making problems. Off the field, on the field, the flags were there. And it goes back to this: ‘What’s your philosophy on character risk? How do you approach the risk? Will it need to be significantly policed?’ Those are the questions you need to answer.”
Perhaps Schwartz believed that, after dealing with guys like Pacman Jones and Albert Haynesworth in Tennessee, it would be easy to control Fairley and Young and Leshoure. If that’s what Schwartz believed, he believed wrong.
And now the challenge becomes getting these guys under control before it screws up what could be a special season in Detroit.
“I try to remind these guys that it’s rare that you’re on a team that actually can win the championship,” Burleson said. “That is our goal.”
It’s every team’s goal. And the Lions are indeed one of the few that can pull it off. But the distractions and possible suspensions that come from players who can’t make good decisions will make it harder for the Lions to go as far as their talent can carry them.
The key to getting this fixed won’t be Schwartz but players like Burleson, who have the ability to get through to youngsters who are doing dumb things. Other team leaders, like Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford, and Ndamukong Suh, need to get actively involved as well, and they also need to set a strong example of their own.