Tuesday, August 9, 2011


If Lions fans believe in curses, then the Madden NFL and Sports Illustrated cover jinxes are ghost and gremlin bedtime stories for toddlers compared to whatever forces have bedeviled the team’s high draft picks for the last decade.

Call it a jinx, curse or simply an occupational hazard of playing pro football, by any name or description, players drafted in the first two rounds since 2002 have been hit by major injuries more often than not.

Nick Fairley and Mikel Leshoure are the latest rookies to be victimized by the Lions’ draft curse. Neither made it to the regular season without sustaining an injury that required surgery.

Fairley, a defensive tackle drafted in the first round, injured his left foot in the third day of practice. He had surgery and likely will miss all of the exhibition season.

Leshoure, a second-round pick who showed promise of upgrading the running game, lasted until the ninth day of camp before going down for the season. His season ended Monday as a result of a torn left Achilles tendon.

The Lions’ front office can be forgiven for wondering if the franchise will catch a break with its draft picks instead of seeing them break down so early.
From 2002 through this year, the Lions have drafted 24 players in the first and second rounds.

Leshoure became the 10th of those 24 prime draft picks to miss at least half a season in his first two years. Of those 10, four went out for the season. Leshoure became No. 4.
Ndamukong Suh and Jahvid Best, both drafted in the first round a year ago, avoided the injury jinx. Both played all 16 games.

Matthew Stafford, drafted first overall in 2009, was hit hard, missing 19 of 32 games his first two seasons.

If it’s an injury bug that’s attacked the Lions, then it’s something big enough to swallow up King Kong and the Empire State Building in one gulp.

Following is a list of how the players drafted by the Lions in the first two rounds since 2002 have fared with injuries, and games missed in their first two seasons:


QB Joey Harrington: He went out early in Game 14 with an irregular heart rhythm, but was healthy in 2003. Games missed: 2.

DE Kalimba Edwards: After a healthy rookie season, a sports hernia caused him to miss half of ‘03. Games missed: 8.


WR Charles Rogers: A failed career in every sense, and the slide to oblivion began in his rookie year. Rogers broke his collarbone in practice after the fifth game and missed the rest of his first season. He broke it again on the first series of 2004. Games missed: 26.

LB Boss Bailey: A durable rookie who led the defense in snaps played crumbled in ’04. A training-camp knee injury KO’d him for the season. Games missed: 16.


WR Roy Williams: He was fairly healthy, missing two games as a rookie and three in ’05. Games missed: 5.

RB Kevin Jones: Foot and knee injuries would derail a promising career, but he had a good start, missing one game as a rookie and three in ’05. Games missed: 4.

LB Teddy Lehman: Almost a Boss Bailey clone in terms of health. Like Bailey before him, Lehman led the defense in snaps played as a rookie but injuries struck in ’05. He never started another game for the Lions. Games missed: 11.


WR Mike Williams: He doesn’t fit this profile. His problem was a self-induced lack of desire.

DT Shaun Cody: Healthy as a rookie, he was another who had a sophomore jinx because of a jammed toe. Games missed: 11.


LB Ernie Sims: Rock solid, he started every game his first three seasons.

S Daniel Bullocks: He missed one game as a rookie, but his career was subverted in year No. 2 when a non-contact knee injury in the exhibition season put him out for the year. His last season was ’08. Games missed: 16.


WR Calvin Johnson: He played through a back injury as a rookie and started all 16 games his second year. Games missed: 1.

QB Drew Stanton: A training-camp knee injury wiped out his rookie year. Games missed: 16.

S Gerald Alexander: After 16 rookie starts, he played five games with one start before a neck injury ended his ’08 season. Games missed: 11.


OT Gosder Cherilus: The injury bug didn’t bite until his third year, when a knee injury required micro-fracture surgery. Games missed: 1.

LB Jordon Dizon: His problems getting playing time were unrelated to injury. However, a knee injury in the exhibition season ended his third season early. The bug bit Dizon late. He was hurt last exhibition season and missed the year.


QB Matthew Safford: The Lions are waiting and hoping that he will survive an entire season to let his immense talent solve their decades-old QB problems. A knee injury and three shoulder injuries have shredded the hopes of his first two seasons. Games missed: 19.

TE Brandon Pettigrew: Already one of the league’s best dual-threat players at his position, he is fully recovered from the knee injury that ended his rookie season after 11 games. Games missed: 5.

S Louis Delmas: Health is a relative issue. His will to play through injuries means Delmas has been relatively healthy. Games missed: 2.


DT Ndaukong Suh: He played all 16 games, but had shoulder surgery after the season. No games missed.

RB Jahvid Best: He played all 16 games despite injuries to both feet.


DE Nick Fairley: Out with an injured left foot that required surgery.

WR Titus Young: He has missed most of camp because of a hamstring injury on the first day.

RB Mikel Leshoure: Out for the season with a torn left Achilles.