Oh, they’re bad. Like mind-numbing bad. Like face palm bad. Like juvenile stupidity bad.

But roughly 24 hours after Nick Fairley’s latest intoxicated cruise in his Escalade in which he passed a state trooper while doing nearly 100 MPH, we’re all having a bit of trouble separating the unhinged moronic behavior of a few, from the conduct of many.

There’s been five arrests of Lions players this offseason, and all five incidents are connected to sophomores from the 2011 draft class. This is bad. Very bad.

But that idiocy is–for now at least–tied almost entirely to two players. Two important players, but two players nonetheless. Fairley has now gone for two intoxicated joy rides, while running back Mikel Leshoure’s appetite for marijuana consumption was responsible two more incidents separated by just a month. Toss in Titus Young’s boxing practice via the sucker punch during OTAs, and it’s quickly becoming apparent that the character gambles taken by the Lions during last year’s draft aren’t faring well in the early going, especially with Leshoure and Fairley likely facing suspensions.

How the Lions handle the discipline of their young players will determine the success of their generally youthful team that’s on the verge of being a yearly contender. But too often we’re in the habit of allowing the stupidity of a few to cast a looming dark shadow over an entire team. The Lions’ issues off the field are isolated in two ways: within a few players, and within the last few months. Prior to the end of the 2011 season, Detroit was among the cleanest teams in the league.

Sean Yuille from Pride of Detroit dug deeper into the Lions’ recent lawlessness, and he found that while there is a concerning trend, the trend indeed is just beginning.

Prior to this offseason, the Lions were actually tied with the St. Louis Rams for the fewest arrests involving players (seven) among all NFL teams since 2000, according to USA Today.

It turns out that the Lions aren’t even the worst team in the NFC North for arrests in the last year or so. The Minnesota Vikings have had eight arrests involving their players since Jan. 2011. To be fair, though, two players (Chris Cook and Everson Griffen) were responsible for half of those arrests.

If you go back to 2000, there have been 38 arrests involving Vikings players, which is the most for any NFL team in the last 11-plus years. The Cincinnati Bengals barely came in second with 37 arrests since 2000.

Fairley’s immense talent was already limited last year by his injury that caused him to miss the first six games. But he showed promise, and as the 13th overall pick in last spring’s draft his run-stuffing presence is a key component to the future success of a Detroit defensive front as he plays alongside Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril (assuming he finally signs a long-term deal).

The football part is pretty easy for Fairley. It’s the bit about not being an immature fool off the field that’s becoming difficult. The Lions’ challenge now is to ensure that Fairley, Leshoure, and Young are reigned in and experience a quick growth spurt mentally.

If they fail, the top of their 2011 draft class will be wasted, and so will their legitimate shot at contention with a thriving young team.

And now you want to know the rest of the story…

  • Happy Memorial Day, America. Here in the great white north we had our long weekend a week ago while celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday. Monitor your cheeseburger intake closely, and please don’t let the dog play with fireworks. Today is much more than a holiday and a day away from work for our American friends, though, and Peter King began his Monday Morning Quarterback column with a touching and tragic Memorial Day story. [MMQB]
  • Karlos Dansby has large enough male genitalia to say something that every player should believe, and people are losing their damn minds. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
  • DirecTV commercial parody of Alex Smith’s rant about Cam Newton? DirecTV commercial parody of Alex Smith’s rant about Cam Newton. [Mike Sando]
  • Bloggers vs. mainstream media. The eternal fight continues. [The Matchups Zone]
  • There’s a chance–albeit a very slim one–that Drew Brees could refuse to sign his contract tender and sit out the entire 2012 season. And if he does that, then his negotiations next spring could be much different, and they might not be with the Saints. [PFT]
  • Are there any defensive players in the NFL you’d take over Justin Smith? [Niners Nation]
  • Falcons fans are beginning to discover an obvious yet quite painful and undeniable truth. When new mega stadiums are built, it’s the loyal people who make football in a city possible who usually pay the largest price. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

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