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Lions “can” take action against players with off-field issues

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A law school professor of mine once suggested a stock answer to the inevitable question posed by potential clients who believe their rights have been violated:  “Can they do that?”

“Well,” the stock answer goes, “did they do it?  If they did, then we know they can.”

That simply reality becomes relevant when assessing the Lions’ options for dealing with a roster that has generated six — six! — arrests this offseason, with defensive back Aaron Berry (pictured) the most recent defendant.  Teams that choose not to get tough with players who get in trouble hide behind the CBA, claiming that there’s nothing that teams can do and that they must defer to the league on off-field conduct.

Technically, that’s right.  (With one exception, to be mentioned below.)  As a practical matter, it’s a cop out.

Teams “can” take a wide variety of steps to punish a player, CBA be damned.  The most convenient device is the catch-all “conduct detrimental to the team.”  While the player could challenge any fines or suspensions, claiming that the team is skirting the substance-abuse and/or personal-conduct policies, such efforts could serve only to make the situation worse for the player.  It also would create the distinct impression that the player isn’t accepting responsibility for his actions, which may not go over well with the fans.

For the team, it sends a strong message that bad behavior won’t be tolerated.

There’s precedent for team’s disregarding league policies when players allegedly disregard the law.  In 2008, the Steelers benched receiver Santonio Holmes with pay for a marijuana arrest.  In 2010, the Colts suspended punter Pat McAfee for one game without pay after an alcohol incident.  Neither action was authorized by the CBA; neither player fought his punishment.

Last year, the Vikings initially suspended cornerback Chris Cook for conduct detrimental to the team after an arrest for domestic violence, which clearly falls within the scope of the personal-conduct policy.  Then, the Vikings gave Cook the Keyshawn treatment, paying the 2010 second-round pick not to play for the balance of the season (and in turn nearly tearing the locker-room apart).  Cook didn’t fight it, though he easily could have.

So the Lions “can” fine or suspend, with or without pay, any of the players who have gotten arrested, if the Lions want to.  To date, they don’t.

The Lions also “can” without consequence engage in one specific form of discipline after a player gets in trouble away from the field.  Paragraph 9 of the Standard Player Contract provides that, “if Player has engaged in personal conduct reasonably judged by Club to adversely affect or reflect on Club, Club may terminate this contract.”

Though it may not be wise to start cutting talented players, the Lions eventually may decide to make an example out of one or more of their less-skilled problem children.

Regardless, if/when the Lions or any other team claim they can’t take action against players who get in trouble off the field, the reality is that, indeed, they can.

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33 Responses to “Lions “can” take action against players with off-field issues”
  1. charliewade says: Jun 27, 2012 10:45 PM

    Wanna know why the Lions don’t suspend or significantly punish any of those players?

    Because they help them win games better/more than anyone else at their respective positions.

    The Lions aren’t in the business of creating or maintaining a positive public image; they are in the business of winning football games. That the bottom line, period.

  2. eastsideballa says: Jun 27, 2012 10:48 PM

    I think it’s hilarious that Culbreath is still even on the roster he’s 330lbs of dead weight, and it’s even scary to think that Aaron berry was just as bad or even worse than Eric wright who was an automatic burnout on every play. I bet in practice CJ has to blind fold himself and tie one hand behind his back and wear ankle weights to make it fair when he’s matching up against them.

  3. coltsluckdynasty says: Jun 27, 2012 10:48 PM

    I actually Asked about this exact rule the other night! Great article, like I said, this would be a logical solution, but, also noted that star players would not likely be cut. Great information as usual from the best football source available! Still, as a football fan, it’s sad to see such a potentially talented team go through this. Especially after what it took them to get this far! Good luck lions, I hope these players truly learn.

  4. pappageorgio says: Jun 27, 2012 10:55 PM

    The minute the Lions would actually do something like suspend them because they “can” the NFLPA and the players lawyers would sue because they have rights under the CBA.

    The media would then jump all over the lions for violating the players “rights” as collectively bargained.

    Players are subject to discipline under the personal conduct portion of the CBA. DUIs, drug possession, and other conduct is all subject to review…….as collectively bargained.

  5. johnnycash19 says: Jun 27, 2012 11:08 PM

    You can still send a message without cutting anyone or getting in trouble with the CBA. Just put the player on the inactive list come game day. That should send a message if they actually care about their job.

  6. fakefranknunley57 says: Jun 27, 2012 11:13 PM

    Dick Nolan would have reprimanded us…allegedly.

  7. funktron2x says: Jun 27, 2012 11:18 PM

    For one, CharlieWade hits it on the head. For two, why would the Lions want to risk damaging a locker room that appears from outside perspective to be pretty tight? If they can let NFL be bad cop, all the better.

  8. tjg3781 says: Jun 27, 2012 11:27 PM

    “To date, they don’t.”

    The team has kept team information close to the vest ever since Mayhew took over, so discipline could still be in the works, but way to jump to conclusions and essentially call the administration cowards.

  9. darthhitman77 says: Jun 27, 2012 11:34 PM

    Having been a fan of the Lions for 31 years now if I were to be given the choice of a choir boy roster and an 0-16 finish or a team full of convicts and be a contender I choose the latter every single time. I’ll take your hatred over sympathy every day of the week. Thanks for the hate, I’ll be awaiting it for the next arrest as well. NOW, I’m focusing on the season and trying to catch up to Green Bay.

  10. rextraordinaire says: Jun 27, 2012 11:45 PM

    They “can”, but they wont, sending out a strong message that bad behavior is tolerated, just so long as you are a starter.

  11. jkrc717 says: Jun 28, 2012 12:25 AM

    Fairley is the only guy worth giving a second chance to.

    Everyone else can be cut with no damage to the team.

  12. shzastl says: Jun 28, 2012 1:07 AM

    The players could not care less if it goes over well with the fans that they fight a suspension

  13. rabidmike says: Jun 28, 2012 1:33 AM

    Well, the Commish clearly has this team in his sights. These players are surely gonna get what’s coming to…what? That’s the Saints?…not the Lions?…I’m confused….

  14. randallflagg52 says: Jun 28, 2012 1:47 AM

    charliewade says:Jun 27, 2012 10:45 PM

    Wanna know why the Lions don’t suspend or significantly punish any of those players?

    Because they help them win games better/more than anyone else at their respective positions.

    The Lions aren’t in the business of creating or maintaining a positive public image; they are in the business of winning football games. That the bottom line, period.

    ==================================

    Detroit is in the business of winning football games? Since when?

  15. jpmelon says: Jun 28, 2012 2:27 AM

    They can, but then the players will just file a defamation suit in court and have an injunction against the disciplinary action. The court will take 3 years to actually reach a final conclusion, which will be a year longer than most NFL careers.

  16. staffordsyear says: Jun 28, 2012 3:05 AM

    @darthhitman77

    I agree 100%..the things this team is goin through right now is a walk in the park compared to the millen years,now that was hell.

    ~20 year diehard detroit lions fan.

  17. jerrysandusky1 says: Jun 28, 2012 3:19 AM

    6 arrests by 3 players. Don’t skew the facts

  18. adonisberg says: Jun 28, 2012 3:20 AM

    Love the lions. Good article. Its meaning is every team can perform a cut or ban without pay for one to half a season to a full season. Teams don’t do it because they perfer a 1 in the win ratherr then loss column. Simple. Lions are a great team and come game time the knuckle heads of the off season will either perform or won’t play which is said for all teams. Simple!

  19. jimmysee says: Jun 28, 2012 7:06 AM

    Lions should put offenders to work on an assembly line at a Ford plant for a week. That’d straighten them out pretty fast when they realize how good they have it as NFL players.

  20. dryzzt23 says: Jun 28, 2012 7:19 AM

    What? Do you mean that maybe, just maybe the Lions can punish employees who make the organization look bad?
    Oh sure those players are protected by the union, whose sole purpose is to collect dues for union bosses under the guise of “protecting the players” when really all they do is keep NFL screw-ups from getting fired or too harshly punished for doing stupid stuff.

    There should be automatic punishment, union or not, such as:
    1st DUI you are suspended 8 games
    2nd DUI you lose an entire season
    3rd DUI you are banned for life with no appeal

  21. stlsteelerfan says: Jun 28, 2012 7:20 AM

    Is a coach who chases another coach down the field, barking at him and begging for a fight, really the best person to instill discipline and character into a team that doesn’t have a clue?

  22. transam7816 says: Jun 28, 2012 7:58 AM

    They should sit these guys for a minimum of 2 games. The problem is..they don’t punish them at all. All that comes out is a statement saying they’re disappointed. Front office doesn’t give a damn..they just want to pretend like they care.

  23. polegojim says: Jun 28, 2012 8:14 AM

    The Great Detroit Lions!

    Filling in for Soul Man-who is on vaca in Cabo…

    Hate to see the stupid and irresponsible antics.

    On-field performance better be equal to the claims of reasonable tolerance.

    Go LIONS – but stop the arrests.

  24. NFLJunkie says: Jun 28, 2012 8:28 AM

    Regardless, if/when the Lions or any other team claim they can’t take action against players who get in trouble off the field, the reality is that, indeed, they can.

    Sure, they “can”. But even the teams you cite don’t always do it. Did the Steelers suspend Hines Ward for his DUI? Were they the first to take action against Roethlisberger, or did they pass the buck to the league office to deal with him?

    I don’t know a thing about Aaron Berry, but it’s as if you’re calling for the Lions to automatically impose discipline in his case because of things Nick Fairley and Michael Leshoure did.

    The CBA still makes it hard to impose a blanket team discipline policy. It seems strange to me that you can have proof that a guy was doing illegal drugs off a failed drug test, and you can’t use that as basis for taking action as a team. But if a player gets pulled over for speeding and police find a joint — even if the ownership might be open for debate, say — you can suspend him if you want?

    Maybe it’s fair enough that these guys can now land in the substance program the same as players who quietly failed a random drug test we never heard about.

  25. spcoltrane says: Jun 28, 2012 8:39 AM

    One of the key differences between a good or mediocre player and a great player is discipline.
    The lineman who watches his diet and keeps working out all off-season so he doesn’t balloon up by 40 pounds, just to have to work it off before training camp.
    The player who spends time reviewing film and the playbook rather than hanging out with his crew every night.
    Look at the prima donna receivers – T.O., Randy Moss, Ochocinco – all of them have more talent in their little fingers than we do collectively. They are “trouble” players because they lack discipline; Ochocinco didn’t learn the Patriots’ playbook, T.O. and Moss wanted every play to be “long bomb to 81″ and when it wasn’t, they sulked.

    The Lions’ players who have run afoul of the law display the same lack of discipline, and both the Lions’ management team (Schwartz, Mayhew, Tom Lewand, W.C. Ford, Bill Ford Jr.) and the veterans have to lay it out for Suh, Fairley, Culbreath, Leshore, Berry, etc.. They are professional football players drawing seven figure salaries, not just for 16 games a year, but for 365 days of the year. They have to maintain discipline over themselves 24/7/365, on the field and off the field.

    Hoping to see the Lions in New Orleans on Feb 3rd next year!

  26. sfm073 says: Jun 28, 2012 8:54 AM

    Why would the lions add anymore punishment to these players then what the league will handout? Will punishing them more help them win games? No it will hurt them and as Herm said “you play to win the game”.

  27. dolg213 says: Jun 28, 2012 9:37 AM

    I just turned 30 last month.

    Last season was what, the second time in my life I’ve actually had fun rooting for the Lions?

    If there is a correlation between this and the arrests I say keep the arrests coming!

  28. granadafan says: Jun 28, 2012 10:08 AM

    Some NFL teams remind me of the SEC. Win at all costs and to heck with all else. Ah, who cares if they’re raping coeds, assaulting others, robbing, stealing, getting DUIs, are functionally illiterate, doing drugs, etc? As long as they produce, right? What a joke.

  29. rmc1995 says: Jun 28, 2012 10:17 AM

    The arrests and suspensions with pay for Holmes, McAfee and Cook all happened during the season when these players are supposed to be focused on football. The Lions arrests are offseason arrests on their own time. So these can’t be compared.

    If I get pulled over for drinking and driving on vacation, my boss may not know if I spent a night in jail until the legal system plays out, and then he may refer to company policy to see if there is a reprimand for the infraction. However, if I get arrested for drinking and driving and miss a meeting, or put more work on my co-workers because I’m in jail rather than work, of course my boss will immediatly know the damage done to production and reprimand immediatley.

  30. jacksprat57 says: Jul 7, 2012 4:42 AM

    What you’re ignoring, mike, is that the NEW CBA was bargained in such a way that the PLAYER no longer need be the ‘bad guy’ by dodging a team sanction. The NFLPA may do that on its own; it clearly INTENDS to do so. This was a bond of contention and it’s ALL that the Union won at the table. They’ll go to the mat on every and any violation.

  31. jacksprat57 says: Jul 7, 2012 4:49 AM

    “Is a coach who chases another coach down the field, barking at him and begging for a fight, really the best person to instill discipline and character into a team that doesn’t have a clue?” –stlsteelerfan

    There are a number of NFL coaches already who were rooting for Schwartz to clean little Jimmy’s clock. Very likely including Morris. Maybe you’re just the rare guy who admired Eddie Haskell.

  32. jacksprat57 says: Jul 7, 2012 4:52 AM

    “Some NFL teams remind me of the SEC. Win at all costs and to heck with all else. Ah, who cares if they’re raping coeds, assaulting others, robbing, stealing, getting DUIs, are functionally illiterate, doing drugs, etc? As long as they produce, right? What a joke.” –granadafan

    Still bitter because they didn’t draft you because of your good penmanship and perfect attendance record?

  33. Mike Florio says: Jul 7, 2012 8:43 AM

    That’s not accurate.

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