By: Tony Ortiz
It should be a very interesting first week of off-season workouts for the Lions, as the players will assemble in Allen Park, beginning on Monday. Among the issues that will be discussed will be the recent off-the-field troubles of Mikel Leshoure, Nick Fairley and Johnny Culbreath – all of whom had marijuana-related arrests since January. Nate Burleson admitted in a recent interview that he’s interested in talking individually to the three, telling the NFL Network that those conversations will be “private” and that “he doesn’t want to put people on blast in front of the team. Sometimes you don’t need to do that. Certain guys in certain situations need to feel that embarrassment of everyone looking down on them. But these are good, young men and I know that they’re passionate about being great professional athletes. It’s just that they made mistakes.”
Two of those players – Leshoure and Fairley – are expected to play vital roles for the Lions in the upcoming season. Leshoure, with a good training camp, could start the year as the team’s #1 running back, while Fairley could begin the year as a starter – alongside Ndamukong Suh – at defensive tackle.
Another thing that’s changed since players last worked out in Allen Park is the balance of power in the NFC. Chicago, thanks to the acquisition of Brandon Marshall and the return to health of Jay Culter, is better. So are Philadelphia and Dallas. The Green Bay Packers are still the best team in the NFC North. New Orleans, with the suspensions of Head Coach Sean Payton and G.M. Mickey Loomis, will be weaker, while Carolina, Tampa Bay and Atlanta have all made strides in the off-season. It won’t be an easy road for the Lions to make the playoffs this year, even if the schedule appears to be a bit easier in 2012. That’s why these off-season workouts will be critical to the Lions. As Kyle Vanden Bosch said earlier this year, “what you see on the field happens because of the all the hard work we [the Lions] do off the field.”
That work begins this week. We’ll begin to see the results of that work in September.