INDIANAPOLIS -- It appears the Detroit Lions haven't yet relented in a tampering case that has, at least for now, cost a seventh-round draft pick and forced them 14 spots lower in the fifth round of the 2011 draft.
As we discussed last week, the NFL announced the punishment after determining that the Lions had "impermissible contact" with a player (or his agent) under contract to the Kansas City Chiefs. The league also noted that defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham had been quoted in the Detroit Free Press as saying he would be interested in signing some Chiefs players if they were released.
Speaking Thursday at the NFL scouting combine, Lions coach Jim Schwartz said the decision was "wrong" and strongly implied the Lions will appeal before the Feb. 28 deadline.
"As far as commenting on that, I think that probably too much has been said already in something that should be confidential," Schwartz said. "And I'm a little disappointed that as much has come out as has. But we have received that notification. I believe firmly in our case, and I think we've reached the wrong conclusion in that and we still have some more options that we can pursue."
Asked if the Lions will file an appeal, Schwartz said: "That's one of the options we'll consider."
I still don't think the Lions got slapped as hard as they could have considering how seriously the NFL takes tampering. But you don't often hear a coach publicly dispute a ruling, and Schwartz's comment suggested there is more to the story than we know.
In the scheme of things, a seventh-round pick and 14 spots in the fifth round don't represent a tremendous forfeiture. But over the past two years under Schwartz and general manager Martin Mayhew, the Lions have upgraded their roster by maximizing every draft pick -- even if it was to make a low-level trade. It would run contrary to the Lions' philosophy to give up on this tampering case when a reversal remains even a technical possibility.