In the last two days, Detroit Lions fans have been on the receiving end of what amounts to a double gut-punch.
As a result, the optimism and excitement surrounding the upcoming 2012 season has been replaced by anxiety and hand-wringing.
Certainly, the players in question committed crimes. Everyone knows that marijuana is illegal—although in Michigan, it is legal with a doctor's order—and getting behind the wheel of a car after smoking (Leshoure was allegedly not driving) is just plain stupid.
It is assumed that Roger Goodell and the NFL will have something to say about the Lions' dazed and confused duo. Fines and/or suspensions will likely be handed down and losing either of these players for multiple games will certainly impact the team's game plan to start the year.
With that said, let's not get carried away with doom-and-gloom predictions and let's not overdo the "morality" talk about the types of players the Lions should be drafting.
These days, marijuana arrests are as prevalent in the NFL as five-yard penalties. In fact, Leshoure and Fairley aren't even the first Lions to be arrested for marijuana this year. That honor goes to backup offensive lineman Johnny Culbreath. He was arrested for possession back in January.
Here is a list of other players in the NFL arrested on drug- or alcohol-related charges this year: Leroy Hill, Nate Collins, J.T. Thomas, Culbreath, Knowshon Moreno (DUI) and Aldon Smith (DUI).
That was in just three months folks.
Marijuana use in the NFL is bordering on epidemic status. Two years ago, this article on SI.com brought the issue to national attention. A number of NFL team personnel were quoted as saying, "10 or 11 players who carry first-round draft grades on their board this year have been red-flagged for marijuana use in college."
They also estimated that "one-third" of that year's draft class had some kind of marijuana-use history.
Does anyone believe that trend has changed?
My point is not to excuse this behavior. I'm just trying to normalize it related to the rest of the league. Fans should not blame Martin Mayhew or Jim Schwartz for "allowing" this to happen. It's happening on every team in the NFL.
Furthermore, it has no bearing on the Lions' chances for success in 2012. Leshoure and Fairley might face suspensions, but they both missed significant time last season due to injury and the Lions survived.
This is not to say that the arrests are not concerning—particularly for two players that have such key roles with the Lions and who are both looking to rebound and finally prove their worth.
There is never a good time to for this to happen, but this was the worst possible time for both players. Their lack of judgment is simply astounding.
For a Lions team trying to overcome the "dirty team" label, these incidents are particularly upsetting. The arrests of two players should not impact the image of an entire team, but we all know what public perception is.
The Lions will face an uphill battle in the public-relations war.
Ultimately, fans should treat this for what it is: two young men committing stupid mistakes. There should not be any long-term ramifications for the Lions and these events should not sour any optimism about the upcoming season.
Mayhew, Schwartz and the rest of the team will address these issues and move on. Can fans do the same?
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