ALLEN PARK, Mich. – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed Thursday that Detroit Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley could be disciplined before his legal cases have been finalized.
Fairley faces a possible suspension similar to teammate Mikel Leshoure, who must sit out the Lions’ first two games because of his two arrests for marijuana possession.
It’s quite possible that Fairley’s two cases – one for marijuana possession, the other for driving under the influence of alcohol – won’t be settled until much later in the football season.
Goodell, who was visiting the Lions’ practice as part of his tour around NFL training camps, was asked whether the league might act on Fairley’s situation before it all plays out in court.
“We may,” Goodell answered.
If so, Fairley could miss the first two games against St. Louis on Sept. 9 and at San Francisco on Sept. 16.
If the league waits for the legal process to be settled, as it sometimes has done in these cases, then Fairley could face a suspension in November or December, just when the Lions are gearing up to make a push for the playoffs.
“You really just have to go through the process,” Goodell said “You can’t let that (playoff races) be involved (in the decision).
“Any time you’re dealing with a discipline, particularly a suspension, it’s a serious issue. You want to be very careful and thoughtful.
“We don’t by policy (need to wait for the legal process to be finalized), particularly if there’s a pattern of behavior. But if there’s not a pattern then we certainly do acknowledge the legal process and want to be respectful of that.”
The Lions lead the league with seven offseason arrests, although two players (Aaron Berry and Johnny Culbreath) who accounted for three of them are no longer with the club.
Berry, projected as a starting cornerback, had his contract terminated a couple days after his arrest for pulling a loaded gun on three men in Harrisburg, Pa.
“Obviously, the Lions have made it very clear what they’re all about, their standards and what they expect the players and other people in the organization to be held to, and they’re backing that up,” Goodell said.
“Any time you have these issues it detracts from the people who are doing so many great things. There’s so many great players on this team and throughout the league. When these instances occur, they reflect poorly on all of us.
“That’s the reason why I believe the Lions want to make sure that their standards are upheld. We as a league feel that way, and the players feel that way.”
Goodell said he planned to meet with both Fairley and Leshoure following practice.
His message to them: “The same message it’s been all along,” the commissioner said. “You’re an NFL player. You have to conduct yourself in a certain way and hold yourself to that standard. We’re going to expect that.”