Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lions assistant arrested for nude driving and drunken driving

Exclusive: A Detroit Lions assistant coach was arrested twice in the last two weeks, once for allegedly driving drunk and once for indecent and obscene conduct, the Free Press has learned.

In the latter incident, a Dearborn police ticket describes the coach as “driving on public street without any clothes on. (NUDE).”

Joe Cullen, whom first-year head coach Rod Marinelli hired from the University of Illinois, coaches the defensive line. Cullen, 38, posted bond in both misdemeanor cases and was still coaching the Lions at practice Wednesday.

He walked away from a Free Press reporter who wanted to ask him about the incidents, but later the team released a statement from Cullen.

“I would like to apologize to the Detroit Lions organization, our fans, my family and friends for any embarrassment these incidents have caused. These incidents represent a mistake in judgment on my part. I deeply regret them and have learned a valuable lesson. It won’t happen again,’’ Cullen said in the statement.

Lions officials said Cullen has requested treatment.

The nudity incident happened Aug. 24 about 11:15 p.m., the night before the Lions flew to the west coast for a game against the Oakland Raiders.

Police stopped Cullen in his car, which was traveling eastbound on Michigan near Lapham Street. The ticket does not provide any other information about why Cullen allegedly was nude. The Lions said alcohol was involved.

A week later, Dearborn police again arrested Cullen, this time about 11:48 p.m. on Sept. 1, the night after the Lions lost their final exhibition game to the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field.

Court records show Cullen had a blood alcohol content of .12 after police stopped his 2006 Ford Explorer as it traveled west on Michigan near Tenny. Michigan law sets .08 as the legal limit.

Cullen, who lives in Dearborn, is scheduled to appear in 19th District Court next week on both cases..

Marinelli, asked about the arrests after Wednesday’s practice, declined to comment and referred questions to Lions president Matt Millen, “It’s a personal issue right now,’’ Marinelli said. “Matt’s going to handle it.’’

Millen released a statement later, saying, “We are obviously very disappointed. These are very serious matters that will be handled sternly and appropriately by our organization. Coach Cullen requested immediate help in seeking treatment. That assistance has been provided and a comprehensive, private program has been established for him.”

Cullen was fired from the University of Mississippi in early 2005 after an alcohol-related arrest at a restaurant. Athletic Director Pete Boone said Wednesday that no one from the Lions organization contacted him for a reference.

When asked whether the Lions were aware of Cullen's history and whether he would be disciplined for the current situation, Millen would only say, “This will be handled the same way any of these situations will be handled with a player. And that’s that it will remain confidential and private. We will respect the privacy of the person and we would expect that you respect that also.”

Cullen has also coached at Indiana, Memphis, Richmond, Louisiana State and the University of Massachusetts, where he played nose guard from 1986-1989.

September 6, 2006

By Jim Schaefer and Nicholas J. Cotsonika

Free Press Staff Writers

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