MIKE O'HARA

O'Hara's Monday Rundown: 2011 class making a not-so-nice name for itself

Posted May 28, 2012

The Lions' 2011 draft class is making a name for itself, but not one that will bring pride to themselves, teammates, coaches, front office or fans.

In the space of three months and nine days, the team's top three picks from last year - Nick Fairley in the first round, Titus Young and Mikel Leshoure in the second - have combined for four arrests and one punch-out of a teammate in practice.

This parade of shameful misbehavior began on Feb. 18, when Leshoure was charged with marijuana possession after a traffic stop in west Michigan.

Incident No. 5 was early Sunday morning in Mobile, where Fairley was arrested in his hometown for driving under the influence, eluding police and some lesser chargers.

In between those two arrests was a second arrest of Leshoure on March 12 on a second charge of marijuana possession, a first arrest of Fairley in Mobile on April 13 for marijuana possession, and an incident in practice two weeks ago when Young reportedly sucker-punched teammate Louis Delmas.

Earlier in the year, offensive tackle Johnny Culbreath, a seventh-round draft pick who spent his entire rookie season on injured-reserve, was arrested for marijuana possession.

This week's Memorial Weekend Rundown eventually will get to the Lions and other football matters, including Cliff Avril's value, along with a personal reflection on Memorial Day and military service.

But we start with bad behavior, its ramifications and fallout:
 
1. Face of a team: Even with the misdeeds earlier in the offseason involving Fairley, Culbreath and Leshoure, the Lions were still a team defined by the star power of Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh.

Just before the draft in April, fans voted Johnson to grace the cover of Madden 2013.

But Fairley's latest arrest, and the punching incident involving Young, tarnishes that image. The Lions look like a team out of control.

Comments on the internet about Fairley's second arrest were not kind. In the Mobile County Sheriff's Dept. mug shot, Fairley has a smile on his face. It's a bizarre reaction to an incident that is anything but a laughing matter.
 
2. Repercussions: It already has been speculated that Leshoure will get a four-game suspension. Now Fairley is likely to get the same, given that his status as a first-time offender lasted only 44 days.
 
3. Hard Knocks: The Lions have been steadfast in having no interest in being the subject of HBO's annual show chronicling a team's training-camp exploits.

Don't be surprised if Judge Joe Brown or Judge Judy come calling next.
 
4. Out of control: One lame excuse offered for Leshoure and Fairley earlier in the year was that the offseason workout program had been pushed back a month to mid-April, thus giving the team less control over them.

Under that theory, personal responsibility apparently means nothing.

The Lions had three practice days last week and a bocce ball tournament for charity. The third practice was on Thursday. Two days later, Fairley got in trouble with the law in Mobile, his offseason home.
 
5. Lions favored: You can bet the Lions will beat the Rams in the opener on Sept. 9, but that doesn't mean they will.

The opening-week point spreads are out, and the Las Vegas Hilton's sports book has the Lions favored by 9.5 points over the Rams.

It's a reasonable line. The Lions have most of their starters back from last year, and the coaching staff is intact. The Rams were 2-14 last season and finished with seven straight losses. Head coach Steve Spagnuolo was fired and replaced by Jeff Fisher.

The Lions and Saints are the second-biggest favorites. The Saints also are favored by 9.5 over the Redskins. The Bears are 10-point favorites at home against the Colts.
 
6. Missing men: Odds are, the Lions won't miss Fairley and Leshoure in the opener - if only because they won without them last year. Leshoure missed all of his rookie season with a ruptured Achilles, sustained early in training camp.
Fairley missed the first four games with a foot injury. For the season, he contributed 15 tackles and one sack.

That's hardly cause for celebration.
   
7. Avril: A discussion on a morning talk show Friday centered on Avril's value as a player compared to his reported asking price. It's a fair discussion point - but only to a point.

Avril has the franchise tag, which pays him $10.6 million for 2012. He has not reported to the offseason workouts, choosing to train on his own.

There is a difference between market value in contract negotiations and where a player ranks with others at his position.

Pass-rushing defensive ends are precious commodities, and that is reflected in the salaries assigned to the franchise-tag designations.

In 2012, quarterbacks are No. 1, at $14.4 million. Tied for second are defensive ends and cornerbacks, at $10.6 million each.

Earlier this month, the Cardinals re-signed Calais Campbell for five years and $55 million. Last year, Charles Johnson of the Panthers signed a six-year deal worth $72 million, with $30 million guaranteed.

Avril, Campbell and Johnson have not made a Pro Bowl, but they have value because of their position.
 
8. Memorial Day: May 28 is the date I was inducted into the Army, as a draftee, many years ago. Military service is a complicated mix of experiences, ranging from the worst to the most worthwhile of my life.

I returned home from Vietnam to my parents' home in a small town in South Dakota. A handful of neighbors had a welcome-home party. The highlight was a tub of homemade ice cream.

My victory parade. The best ever.