Lions guilty of tampering, forfeit draft pick
The Detroit Lions have finally begun to turn the franchise around and recover from the Matt Millen era, but reports that came from the Detroit Free Press today will make that recovery just a little bit harder. The NFL has determined that the Lions violated the league’s anti-tampering rules with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Specifically, this ruling will cost the Lions a 7th round draft pick and they will be forced to trade spots with the Chiefs in the 5th round which will cost them 14 spots in that round. The news is surprising to me as I had seen no previous reports that they were under investigation or that a ruling was imminent.
According to the report, the findings stem from comments made by Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham last February to the Detroit Free Press about pursuing unnamed Chiefs players in free agency. Cunningham also coached for the Chiefs. The Lions are also allegedly guilty of having impermissible contact with safety Jarrad Page and/or his agent.
Cunningham’s comments that landed the team in this situation are as follows:
The Chiefs “keep wanting to dump players. I would like to be there to catch a lot of them, because I know a couple of those guys.”
Head coach Jim Schwartz was understandably upset with the NFL’s ruling and said “I believe firmly in our case, and I think we’ve reached the wrong conclusion in that. We still have some more options that we can pursue in that case.”
When asked if he would appeal the decision he added “That’s one of the options that we’ll consider. Like I said, we probably spoke a little bit too much about that case for something that should be confidential. And I think I’ll just leave it there with that.”
Now I don’t know about you, but Cunningham’s comments seemed awfully benign and certainly don’t warrant tampering charges in my opinion. I can’t speak to the contact the Lions had with Page or other players, but when you compare it to what Pat Riley, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat did in their pursuit of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, this is NOTHING!
Could you even imagine what would happen to the Heat if they were subject to the NFL tampering rules? They might even be forced to sell the team if the Lions had to forfeit a draft pick for this innocent of events!
For the Lions, who need all the draft picks they can get to continue to rebuild, this is the last thing they need. Schwartz agreed saying “It means that we have to do well on the five picks that we have. No different than if we had one or we have a dozen. It really doesn’t change.”
Yes, you can’t afford to miss on your picks and you have to have a great overall draft each and every year, but it certainly changes things for the Lions. 7th round pick or not, they need all the help they can get!