The news that Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson had gotten arrested for street racing and resisting arrest was news to the Jets. And the Jets aren’t happy about that. But since Richardson is really good at football, they’re going to be patient with him, for now.
“That was something that was disappointing, very disappointing,” Jets G.M. Mike Maccagnan told reporters on Saturday, via quotes distributed by the team. “It was not something that we were aware of until it kind of came across the Internet on the media. [Coach] Todd [Bowles] sort of said this the other day and I am going to agree with him, we do worry about Sheldon in terms of the decisions he has made off the field. There is a degree of trust that has been broken, but we are supportive of him and there are a lot of resources in this building that we want to make available to him. Our doors are always open. There definitely has to be a better line of communication between Sheldon and us, but we are going to do everything in our power just to help him not just as a football player develop, but make sure he’s doing the right things off the field.”
Maccagnan declined to make any long-term commitment to Richardson, although it’s clear they’re not going to part ways with him in the short term, even though the four-game suspension imposed last month likely wiped out the remaining guarantees in his rookie deal.
“I think at this point in time and going forward, we will see how this progresses,” Maccagnan said. “He has obviously made some decisions that have consequences in terms of the NFL and the substance abuse policy that he is going to have to deal with. Now, he has had an issue off the field [and just] like all other players, it affects the Personal Conduct Policy and it’s really a league issue so they are going to sort of find out how the league proceeds with this.”
It also could result in another substance-abuse policy complication for Richardson, if the smell of marijuana that police detected when arresting him translates into another failed test for Richardson, whose next positive would trigger a 10-game suspension. With marijuana metabolites remaining in a person’s system for up to 30 days and Richardson subject to up to 10 unannounced tests per month, the Jets should also be bracing for a second suspension under the substance-abuse policy, in addition to consequences under the Personal Conduct Policy.
Since Richardson was the 2013 NFL defensive rookie of the year, and given that defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson remains a year away from free agency without a new contract, the Jets won’t be doing anything rash. If Richardson were an undrafted free agent at the bottom of the roster, the Jets surely wouldn’t be displaying so much patience.
Maccagnan tiptoed around the question of whether Richardson would already be gone if he were at the bottom of the 90-man roster.
“I think we try to do that with any player that we have, to a certain degree to see if there is something we can help them with on or off the field,” Maccagnan said. “I wouldn’t frame it in that kind of context.”
Unless Richardson can prove that he somehow was framed, the context is going to entail Richardson not playing football when the real games arrive, with the only question for now the extent of any additional suspensions that the NFL will impose on Richardson — and whether he can refrain from smoking marijuana long enough to avoid a looming one-year banishment from the sport.