Coach says Lions players were informed of the consequences for getting into trouble off the field.
By DAVE DYEFS Detroit
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Bad decisions in real life can lead to bad decisions at crucial times on the football field, too.
That's how Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz came to terms with losing projected starting cornerback Aaron Berry, who was released by the club earlier this week after being arrested twice in less than a month.
Before Lions players headed out on their own following the team's mini-camp in mid-June, the consequences for getting into trouble off the field had been stated very clearly to them.
The Lions were leading the league in arrests since the end of last season, and they weren't going to tolerate too many more of those embarrassments.
"Knowing what the stakes were going in, if somebody could make two really bad errors in judgment in that short period of time, what would they do during a big game?" Schwartz said Thursday, a day before the Lions' first training-camp practice. "What would they do when the stakes were just as high?
"We were a playoff team last year. We aspire to be a contender year in and year out. Is that the kind of guy who can make good decisions in big games? It's all part of the same picture and that's one of the things I think we were able to come to peace with is it was a sign of other things."
Berry, 24, had his contract terminated after being charged with three counts of simple assault for pointing a loaded gun at three men during an incident last weekend in his hometown of Harrisburg, Pa.
Less than a month earlier, Berry was arrested in Harrisburg for driving under the influence of alcohol after running into parked cars with his BMW.
"Aaron had come a long way as a player," Schwartz said. "He had an outstanding spring for us on the football field. From a football standpoint, that was a very, very difficult decision.
"But from a team standpoint, it was an easy decision. Two incidents, including one with a gun, was very disappointing. Hopefully, he can put some of those bad decisions to rest. It just won't be with us."
AVRIL NO SHOW
The veterans reported for camp Thursday, but defensive end
Cliff Avril was not among them.
Avril is expected to skip the first part of camp before signing his one-year franchise tender. He and the club were not able to reach an agreement on a long-term deal this summer.
"I really have no expectations there," Schwartz said when asked when he thinks Avril might report. "We have 89 other guys. We're going to coach those guys and not worry about when Cliff's going to be here.
"When he's here, we'll get him up to speed. When he's not, we're not going to spend a lot of time talking about it. We're not going to have a 'What-do-we-do-without-Cliff-Avril period (during practices).'"
As for the impact of Avril's absence, Schwartz said, "He's in a different position than a rookie. He's very familiar with our scheme. He's an experienced player.
"But there's a reason we do this stuff. We don't just do this for the fun of it. There's a reason you go through training camp, there's a reason you grind out all the practices and the reps and things like that."
The Lions announced they had signed Schwartz to a contract extension earlier this summer, but no terms of the agreement have been reported.
In this day and age, it's rather astonishing that the information hasn't leaked out yet.
But Schwartz is extremely anal when it comes to his contract negotiations and details. You would think it's a top-secret document.
"It's my choice," he said when asked about not even releasing the length of the deal in years. "It's personal to me.
"You guys can critique it all you want, but that's my decision. You're not going to shake me off of it."
Schwartz added, "I will say this, I'm very grateful to the Ford family. I am very excited to be the head coach of the Detroit Lions and I look forward to being here for a long time."