Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali has made his living slipping past blockers. At some point in the not-too-distant past, Hali and the team slipped an arrest, prosecution, and disposition of a criminal case past the media.
The decision of the NFL to suspend Hali for one game under the substance-abuse policy has created plenty of confusion, given that the substance-abuse policy as written doles out suspensions only in four-game and one-year chunks.
The exception arises when the player has violated the law.
In Hali’s case, the league office attributes the Hali suspension to just that — violation of the law that was previously unreported and undisclosed. This means that Hali has been arrested at some point for something relating to alcohol or marijuana or some other substance, and that the player, the team, and the league managed to keep the media from finding out about it.
Under the policy, a first offense for alcohol ordinarily results in a two-game fine only, barring aggravating circumstances. For second and subsequent offenses, a suspension is imposed. For offenses not involving alcohol, the first offense subjects the player to discipline of up to four games.
It’s our understanding, per a source with knowledge of the situation, that Hali’s offense likely involved marijuana, and that (as the league has announced) the penalty was a one-game suspension and a one-game fine.
The good news for the Chiefs is that it doesn’t mean Hali is in one of the advanced stages of the substance-abuse program, which would have put him on track for, eventually, a one-year banishment.
That said, the incident undoubtedly resulted in the placement of Hali in Stage One. Whether he emerges from the program or progresses to Stage Two or Stage Three depends at that point on whether he can choose football over the substance that got him in trouble with the law.