Two young Detroit Lions, Nick Fairley and Mikel Leshoure, have been arrested twice each this offseason. But Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham says that doesn’t indicate that the Lions drafted a couple of players with character problems.
Instead, Cunningham says those arrests illustrate something that he once heard the late Raiders owner Al Davis say: It takes time for young players to learn how to conduct themselves as professionals, and smart teams will work with young players who make mistakes, not cut ties with them.
“Al Davis always put three fingers up,” Cunningham told the Detroit Free Press. “He said, ‘Son, some day you’re going to learn it takes three years how to learn and act to play in this game,’ and he wasn’t wrong. You can’t give up just because a guy takes a wrong turn. You just gotta smack ’em upside the head or you gotta love ’em. People always look at me like I’m going to choke ’em all, and sometimes I do. You have to give them a different love sometimes. Nick is a great guy. Mikel, I talked to last week. He had this look on his face. I said, ‘You’re carrying it and everybody sees you doing it. They think you are all going sideways about this situation.’ I said, ‘You need to get that smile back on your face and show your teammates you’re going to solve this problem.’ And he started laughing and I saw him make a cut against us in practice. Whoa. He’s back and feeling good about himself again because we all make mistakes.”
Cunningham said he blames himself, in part, for spending too much time on going over the playbook with Fairley and not enough time working with Fairley as a person.
“The disappointment that I have is that I bogged myself down in so much paperwork that I didn’t see that coming,” Cunningham said. “And I should have seen it. With my experience, I should have understood.”
Fairley and Leshoure should have understood how to get through an offseason without multiple arrests on their own. But they clearly need some guidance, and Cunningham is willing to provide it.