Lions’ Cunningham says Fairley, Leshoure need time and patience


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.

14 responses to “Lions’ Cunningham says Fairley, Leshoure need time and patience

  1. Some 20-somethin year olds need “patience” for them to figure out that doing drugs while your in the NFL is wrong? Interesting….

  2. Cunningham really likes the sound of his own voice. This year his defense needs to put up or shut up, and by that I mean stop a good offense when it really matters. Sadly, I’m not sure the secondary has improved enough to accomplish that.

  3. Of course it means they have character issues. It doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t grow up and beyond them. It is entirely up to them. The team could help by not making excuses for them constantly and making them face the situation they made.

    Nothing ever taught me a lesson better than embarrassment.

  4. jhart615 says: Jun 17, 2012 9:09 PM

    Some 20-somethin year olds need “patience” for them to figure out that doing drugs while your in the NFL is wrong? Interesting….

    ummmmm…..They know it’s wrong, einstein. They are young and invincible just like you and I were before we got old and wise…….remember those days? I do and they were great!

  5. noeffinway:

    How many times did you get nailed for drugs because you were speeding and then went out and did it again? Or drive drunk and speed a week after you were in court for a pot bust because you were speeding?

  6. Truly I wonder how some of these judgmental were growing up. Perfect without mistakes. The NFL isn’t the only place young people struggle or make mistakes. Some of these guys posting on here must have been real choir boys growing up. People make bad choices. Hopefully they learn from them. Those who don’t deserve the criticism.

  7. This guy is 65 years old…so he has seen a lot of young people in his life. I appreciate his willingness to coach and teach these young guys, regardless of what they make and do.

  8. Well said Eric. Not everyone is the same, not everyone had an up bringing that left them responsible adults at the age of 22 or 23. Yes some people go need a hand. Some people need a smack in the face and some people need love. Everyone is different and to simply say they are immature and stupid is well immature and stupid.

  9. Leshoure was picked up not once, but TWICE for having dope in his car. Once, he was driving. I assume all you genius sports hero worshippers here would approve of him speeding toward your car, high, with your kids or parents in it… And if you try to tell me he wasn’t using while he was in the car, then why wasn’t the weed packed away in the trunk? The time he was a passenger he tried to swallow it! What a complete idiot.

  10. The one thing that most are discounting here is the struggle to extricate yourself from your former life. I can identify with the effort it takes to move on from former friends. Many of, what we see as bad influences, are the ones you’ve had since childhood. The people who have known you the longest and think you can trust. And, before someone says Fairley was alone—he was most certainly coming from somewhere.

    There’s a code and you stick by your friends. But, the successful athletes/celebs/PEOPLE, figure out that your real friends will let you go, the rest aren’t worth having. Give these kids time before we toss them on the scrap heap.

  11. Accountability. It starts up top. And Gunther is holding himself accountable. Great leader. Hope these young guys pay attention, Detroit’s D could be very good in a few years.

  12. Gunther is just a terrible coach.

    If not for Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith, this guy wouldn’t have a job in the league.

    How the Lions continue to hold onto him is a mystery, and has to make you wonder about the head coach and FO.

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