The strange story of Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones could result in league scrutiny, even if the absence of an arrest or a positive test.
Whether he was using synthetic marijuana or the real thing (the police report says authorities smelled burned marijuana in Jones’ apartment), the information gathered and documented likely is sufficient to refer Jones to Stage One of the substance-abuse program, even without with a positive test. The policy provides that a player may be played in Stage One based on behavior, which includes (but is not limited to) an arrest or conduct relating to the misuse of a substance of abuse.
By way of example, an admission more than a decade ago by former NFL receiver Randy Moss to Bryant Gumbel that Moss smokes marijuana “every blue moon” nearly got Moss placed into Stage One of the program, an unnamed source told PFT at the time.
If the NFL’s Medical Review Officer determines that Jones should be referred to the program (and the determination can be based on behavior reported in the media), Jones would be placed in Stage One for up to 90 days, during which time Jones would be subject to enhanced testing over and above the once-per-year screening that occurs unannounced between April and August.
As to synthetic marijuana, there’s a question as to whether it even falls within the policy. It arguably is a “Substance of Abuse,” but it definitely isn’t one of the compounds for which the NFL tests. Once in the program, however, positive tests arising from other substances would result in advancement to a higher level of the program and, eventually, discipline.
For Jones, unless he already was in an advanced stage of the program (due to the confidentiality of the program only a small handful of people would know whether he is), a suspension won’t happen based on the recent incident. Even if he’s one violation away from a suspension, there’s not enough time to process the suspension and the appeal before the Super Bowl.
The real question is whether the NFL determines, based on the police report, that Jones should be placed in Stage One of the substance-abuse program. Given the behavior described in the police report and Jones’ vague apology for making some sort of a “stupid mistake,” there’s a chance that he would benefit from the guidance and the deterrent of enhanced testing during the next 90 days.