I suppose the Detroit Lions and their fans saw this coming, but that doesn't make it hurt any less. Today the NFL announced that Mikel Leshoure—arrested twice this offseason for marijuana related offenses—will be suspended for the first two games of the regular season.
Here is the article from NFL.com. It also notes that Leshoure will be docked two additional game checks, which brings his total financial loss to $109,412. That's a pretty substantial chunk of change for someone with a base salary of $465,000.
The Lions will also find out about Nick Fairley's situation in the days to come. He will likely face suspension as well.
Detroit Lions President Tom Lewand weighed in on the Leshoure decision and had this to say:
We support the Commissioner's decision regarding Mikel and appreciate the dialogue that we have had with the League office concerning the matter. Our belief and expectation is that Mikel will continue to learn from this experience and use it as positive motivation moving forward.
The Lions won't get to see Leshoure in action until Week 3 against the Tennessee Titans, and while two games at the beginning of the year might seem inconsequential, I assure you they are not.
In Week 1 the Lions face an improved St. Louis Rams team. Lions will be favorites with or without him, but I'm sure they'd feel better going into it with their starter.
Will Leshoure's suspension have a major impact on the Lions?
It's Week 2 that is more of a concern. The Lions face the San Francisco 49ers in a prime-time game they desperately want to win. The 49ers have an elite defense and the Lions would've had quite an edge with Leshoure.
He's an unknown commodity, and could've given Detroit the run game they didn't have when they lost to the 49ers last season. Without Leshoure, the Lions will be even harder-pressed to open up the season 2-0 for the second straight year.
How the Lions fill Leshoure's shoes is the biggest question. All signs point to Jahvid Best. He's healthy, and has been Detroit's rushing workhorse the last two seasons. With his concussion history though, this might be a recipe for disaster.
He's certainly the most electric rusher the Lions have, but relying on him for full-time duty, even if it's only for two games, could potentially put the Lions in the same hole they were in last year.
If they overuse him, they could lose him.
Common sense would suggest the Lions use him sparingly and rely on either Keiland Williams or Joique Bell to pick up the heavy lifting in Leshoure's absence.
There are drawbacks to that strategy though. Williams hasn't set the world on fire as a Lion, and Bell has a lot of potential without a lot of experience.
It's not like Detroit can't win without a full complementary running game though. Last season was evidence enough of this.
Matthew Stafford can certainly win games with his arm, and that might be the Lions best chance of winning those first two games.