The ongoing drama regarding Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman continues.
A day after ESPN’s Chris Mortensen dropped a fairly ominous hint regarding the possibility that Freeman is in the league’s substance-abuse program, Mortensen reports that Freeman is in Stage One.
It means that Freeman has done something — either a failed drug test, a missed test, or some other violation of the substance-abuse policy — to land in the lowest level of the program.
Mortensen reports that Freeman isn’t one strike away from a suspension, and that Freeman has a therapeutic use exemption for a prescription drug that is otherwise banned. (Mortensen doesn’t mention whether the medication is banned by the substance-abuse policy or the performance-enhancing drug policy.)
Typically, multiple violations of the substance-abuse policy are required before a suspension arises. One violation of the performance-enhancing drug policy typically triggers a suspension.
The broader problem is that someone has committed a significant breach of the confidentiality requirements of the substance-abuse policy. A player’s status in the program is supposed to remain secret unless and until a suspension is finalized.
Breaches of the confidentiality relating to the substance-abuse program, which covers recreational substances, are all too common. Rarely if ever is action taken.
This time, it could be different. Per a league source, the NFLPA will be “coming after everyone” to determine who violated the confidentiality provisions by leaking news of Freeman’s status to Mortensen.
The leak could have come from one or more potential sources. The Buccaneers would know about Freeman’s status. The league office would know, as would Freeman’s representatives.
Other teams would be entitled to know Freeman’s status only if Freeman were one strike away from a suspension.
It could be difficult to prove who said what to whom, but it’s about time the words on paper regarding the consequences of confidentiality (i.e., a fine of up to $500,000) come to life via an effort to prove who has violated the player’s legal rights under the CBA.
Even if the offender in this case is never caught, an aggressive attempt to enforce the rule could prompt folks who may be tempted to leak confidential drug policy information in the future to think twice.