Lions head coach Jim Schwartz is taking some heat—deservedly so—for the actions of a few players off the field over the last five months.
On Tuesday, he finally spoke out about the rash of incidents which have taken place. It was about time. He's taken some criticism that he is not in control of his team and is in fact partly to blame for some of the out-of-control behavior.
Schwartz is concerned he says, but he shouldn't be the only one. There is more than enough blame to go around.
"We have 90 guys out here working, most of which are doing a very good job and working with a good goal in mind," Schwartz said. "But the actions of a few have affected the reputations of not just the other guys in the 90, but also the organization as a whole and that's not a good situation."
It's good to hear Schwartz take what appears to be a firm stand in response to the antics of a few members of his team in the past five months.
Say what you will about both Nick Fairley and Titus Young's presence at today's OTAs, but there is really precious little a team can do to a player without having the NFLPA get involved.
Also, one is an internal issue and one is still not in court. Damning evidence aside, the league and teams tend to try and wait as long as possible before punishing a player so they can be as fair as possible.
While they were at OTAs today, Fairley and Young were escorted off the field after practice by security so the media wouldn't bug them. I get it. There's been enough drama and neither of these guys have made solid choices lately, so perhaps the team not trusting them enough to avoid foolish or inflammatory remarks is the way to go.
As ESPN NFC North reporter Kevin Seifert said on Twitter, it is unfortunate that Fairley and Young get to avoid the press while their other teammates can't. Oh, the locker room was closed, but the practice field wasn't.
Even if everyone escapes the clutches of the press today, they'll be answering questions about it for months.
Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe it will motivate the veterans to step in and say to these youngsters "use your head." We don't know all that goes on behind closed doors, but so far, anything that has happened hasn't been enough.
Guys like Nate Burleson, Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Stephen Tulloch have to step up and lead these young men. Yes, it is ultimately a player's own responsibility to make good choices, but any of these players could and should start mentoring the players who have gone "off the reservation."
It's not just the players or Schwartz either. For as much as he has put together a great group of athletes, general manager Martin Mayhew seems to have dropped the ball a bit in terms of getting players capable of using their brains to make smart non-football choices.
Nick Fairley especially came with a warning label, and so did Titus Young. Both were drafted anyway, their upside on the field outwieghing their risk off.
Yet here we are with both players involved in incidents over the last few weeks—in Fairley's case, more than once this offseason. While a practice scuffle is far from unheard of, it's not a great sign, especially from a player who already had a rep for being hotheaded.
So at what point does Mayhew start hearing criticism? While he doesn't control actions of the players he drafts, it is his job to make sure the people he drafts (or suggests be drafted) are more useful than harmful.
At some point, Mayhew needs to be concerned as well, and if not directly involved in this, should take a look at how he and his staff approached the 2011 NFL draft.
Every player in trouble lately is a member of that draft class. Maybe it's a fluke, or maybe it's a problem in analysis.
A good GM will take a look and make sure it isn't the second for sure.
There are those among you who have expressed the idea that maybe we in the press are all up in arms about nothing. That none of these players are important players and that losing Mikel Leshoure or Fairley for a game or two isn't critical, nor is a team suspension of Young for a long period of time.
To that, I respond with this. Mikel Leshoure is going to have to help carry the load at running back, a position which was a mess last season and needs to be more effective and reliable this year. Losing him puts the onus of the ground game on Jahvid Best—a shaky bet given his concussion history.
Perhaps Fairley is never going to get on the field, but Corey Williams may not be back in 2013 and Sammie Lee Hill isn't the future of the position. Fairley can have a tremendous impact this year, but not on the bench.
And sure, Ryan Broyles was drafted in part as insurance against Titus Young being, well, Titus Young. However, we're talking about a rookie coming off a severe injury. Behind him? No real depth.
Young needs to stay on the field and help give Stafford options when Calvin Johnson is covered.
It's a nice theory that none of these guys are important, but not reality. Every one of them has a role and needs to be on the field to play their part.
As that's the case, maybe you should be a bit worried too.