Is the NFL softening its stance on the substance-abuse policy?

Getty Images

When it comes to players who have repeatedly run afoul of the substance-abuse policy, the NFL has tremendous discretion. Under Commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFL has often used that discretion aggressively against the players. Is it possible that the league is now using its discretion in favor of the players?

That’s the only way to explain the vague, ominous statements from the Browns, receiver Josh Gordon, and the NFL regarding Gordon’s status. Something has happened with Gordon to prompt his absence from training camp for at least one week, and his comments on the matter strongly imply that it has something to do with the condition that got him suspended for an extended stretch. As written, the policy creates for players in Stage 3 of the program (i.e., any player reinstated a year or more after a banishment) a clear link between something/anything happening and another banishment.

So if Gordon has slipped up in any way — including a positive test or any failure to cooperate with testing, treatment, evaluation, or any other requirements imposed by the policy of his treatment plan — he technically should be gone for at least another year. While that could still happen, it hasn’t happened yet. Which invites speculation that the NFL may be trying to find a way to not suspend him, again.

Ditto for Raiders receiver Martavis Bryant. Last month, a report emerged that the Raiders fear another Bryant suspension may be coming. A subsequent report insisted that Bryant hasn’t failed or missed a drug test. But the standard for a slip up is much broader than that. Any glitch, any problem, any issue gets a player in Stage 3 booted again from the NFL, for at least another year.

Maybe, then, the NFL finally has realized that its over-the-top obsession with players smoking marijuana hurts the game more than it helps the game, especially with marijuana no longer possessing the stigma it once did. Maybe the NFL is now willing to find ways to keep talented players on the field, instead of finding ways to keep them off the field.

Regardless, something has caused the swift, sudden hand of Big Shield Justice to do something other than promptly smack players like Gordon and Bryant out of the league. Whatever the reason, it’s a positive development.

62 responses to “Is the NFL softening its stance on the substance-abuse policy?

  1. With Richardson gone the league might be able to get out of it own way on this.

    The current policy is as bad for the owners as it is for the players. But because some owners felt it was a collective bargaining chip, it couldnt be changed.

    The playes were never going to trade anything for it because the majority of players either dont do drugs or are smart enough to not get caught.

  2. You’re probably right about this and I see it as a good thing. Players should not be suspended for weed.

    However, Martavis / Gordon did not know that the NFL was going to be softening its policy. When they made the choice to smoke weed / do any other substances that could get them banned, they had to assume that if caught they might never play again. What in the world were they thinking? Seems clear they still have very poor judgement and haven’t changed at all.

  3. Perhaps Gordon’s doctors thought the hard knocks ratings hunt my push Josh back into a relapse and so this is their way of keeping them apart as long as possible.

  4. Agree. People cant have their jobs control what they do in their private time. It shouldnt “automatically” be a “job penalty” because someone tests positive for something possible to do in private time that does not affect their ability DURING WORK HOURS.

    Anything more than that, takes us away from the very freedom of life that Americans fight for with their lives – and have EARNED as OUR OWN in our own PRIVATE lifes.

  5. I smoked a bunch of weed in my teens, than I got a job that required a pre employment drug test & and testing for any work related injuries.
    Guess what I did, I quit smoking weed.

  6. jimnaizeeum says:
    July 23, 2018 at 1:13 pm
    I smoked a bunch of weed in my teens, than I got a job that required a pre employment drug test & and testing for any work related injuries.
    Guess what I did, I quit smoking weed.

    ———-

    Yup…..me too. And most of the guys I know that never quit have never accomplished much in their lives…. But by all means….let’s legalize the stuff

  7. I really think domestic violence, DUI’s – and other acts that clearly harm more than just the perp himself – need to be subject to the punishment level that smoking a J does. To be honest, it makes no difference on the field for the player or any of the fan base if Gordon wants to get high. We need to stop holding NFL players to these high standards. There are plenty of other institutions where we don’t and it’s not really having any impact (Hollywood, politicans, etc.)

  8. Stupid rules are the result of disregarding personal freedom. No free person should be forced to allow their employer or school to invade their body.

    Instead, we have high schools testing every student, regardless of whether a student is suspected of smoking marijuana or there being any evidence that they have done so. We have companies testing every employee, even if an employee’s job has no interaction with the public.

    The lack of respect for personal liberty is shocking.

  9. Is pot worse than alcohol? Unlikely. Certainly less harmful than tobacco. But people should ask themselves: “Why do I need to chemically alter my brain to feel good about myself”?

  10. I agree it is a positive development, especially if what we’re talking about is marijuana (we even stopped testing for it in my companies, as long as you weren’t on the road). Alcohol remains legal in all 50 states so unless you do something stupid, there should be no consequences for consuming it. But I take issue with words like vagueness and the assumption that there must have been some sort of failed test. This guy is an addict which means that from time to time, he needs to tend to himself. Football isn’t his biggest cross to bear. Why can’t we assume that maybe is doing something right with his health as opposed that something had to go wrong?

  11. Gordon’s comments also strongly imply this was part of the overall off the field treatment plan. Offsite treatment should be treated just like a pulled hamstring or any other injury. Addiction is an illness that requires treatment by professionals.

  12. cardinealsfan20 says:
    July 23, 2018 at 1:29 pm
    Stupid rules are the result of disregarding personal freedom. No free person should be forced to allow their employer or school to invade their body.
    ——-
    I agree. This guilty until proven innocent treatment is bassackwards to a free society.

  13. If the NFL was smart they would just offer the union a trade with the marijuana policy and the anthem policy.Between the number of players that want to stand for the anthem and want the bickering to stop and the number of players that want to smoke weed they would get it passed easily and solve 2 problems at once.

  14. The Legality of it is a moot point…

    And yes… the NFL or any other company can and will terminate you for it if they want…

    Hell, using Facebook and Twitter is TOTALLT Legal, and I’ve seen more people fired for doing something stupid on either of them than for drugs or alcohol.

    It’s all about personal accountability…

    If you dont have it…please dont complain about the consequnces

  15. .
    Maybe, then, the NFL finally has realized that its over-the-top obsession with players smoking marijuana hurts the game more than it helps the game, especially with marijuana no longer possessing the stigma it once did. Maybe the NFL is now willing to find ways to keep talented players on the field, instead of finding ways to keep them off the field.
    ____

    Pot is not a performance enhancing drug. It’s for recreational use only.
    .

  16. Playing in the NFL is many peoples dream. It’s also like winning a lottery ticket if you have the skill set to last several year, like Martaveus Bryant has.

    You’d figure after the 2nd suspension he’d bear down and do what it takes to stay clean.

  17. I would say that it is highly likely that both Gordon and Bryant both self-reported an issue to their teams. If the NFL is treating substance abuse problems like the disease that it is, then it’s easy to understand how these rumors come out but nothing happens or that Gordon will be away from the team for a while. This same thing happened with Josh Hamilton in MLB when he self reported issues.

  18. and how is this a positive? the ambiguity of a “will they/won’t they” be suspended now in the hands of the league and their “we’ll let you know at the appropriate time” decision. when have they ever made a good decision that they’ve sat on?

  19. Such a stigma for weed smokers. The world is not what the media presents itself to be. One would be surprised at who does what.

    My brother has a zillion dollar house and smokes weed all the time. He’s an attorney, so it’s after hours.

  20. isn’t it a tad irresponsible to speculate on this? people are going to read this and the general consensus will be that Gordon slipped up and the league is showing him mercy and compassion. Maybe wait a couple of days until other details are available? Nobody knows what sort of treatment he is seeking or his reasons for seeking it.

  21. willyalistentothis says:
    July 23, 2018 at 1:47 pm
    Is it possible that the guy had the urge and instead of the deep-end chose treatment?

    ——————————————————————–

    THIS

    A few months ago, actor Colin Farrell went to rehab, but it was not for a slip up. He’s been sober ten years and decided to go to a treatment facility to re-commit to his sobriety. It is possible Gordon is doing the same thing, but that’s not a hot story is it? A guy doing what he has to do to keep the peace in his life. It’s almost like the media is hoping and praying that he relapsed.

  22. “Maybe the NFL is now willing to find ways to keep talented players on the field, instead of finding ways to keep them off the field.”

    What a novel idea.

  23. “I got a job that required a pre employment drug test & testing for any employment related injuries. Guess what I did, I quit smoking weed”.

    You should have refused that employment and obtained a position with an employer who respects your personal rights. Bragging about knuckling under to the man is not a good look.

  24. Separate weed from other drugs as far as punishment goes. Basically do it like the NBA does and look the other way, unless there’s an arrest. No reason guys should be losing their careers over a damn plant. The whole thing is ridiculous.

  25. It’s a banned substance…..lots of PED’s are legal but STILL A BANNED SUBSTANCE…… is weed a PED…. no, but if it’s allowed & a player gets hurt & tests for a extremely high level at the time, who’s accountable, the player or the league for allowing it??!! LAWYERS would blame the NFL, so WHY would they open themselves up to that??!!
    Should players be allowed to play buzzed on beer too, it’s legal!!!
    Got to draw the line somewhere!!!!

  26. backintheday99 says:
    July 23, 2018 at 2:05 pm
    Such a stigma for weed smokers. The world is not what the media presents itself to be. One would be surprised at who does what.

    My brother has a zillion dollar house and smokes weed all the time. He’s an attorney, so it’s after hours.

    —————

    Sounds like he is quite successful. So why does he need to chemically alter he brain to feel good about himself?

  27. I think the league is using this an an opportunity to stick it to Trump, who has been screaming about the players for years now and calling them unpatriotic drug addicts. I am so sick of his animus towards the players in a majority-minority league.

  28. Rules, follow them. It really is that simple . I employ you, do as I ask & follow the system ….no NFL team or player has to abandon pot use they have to follow a system that allows them to use and shoe self control & accountability . Softening the stance is a joke when 99% of players follow the system .

  29. This is crazy.
    Weed IS THE big chip in the next CBA.
    With as much fun as the PA has been lately, I don’t think the owners should give it away.
    Certainly not for something like the anthem…

  30. Goddell punishment wheel. Round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows. It’s like playing darts blindfolded. And when all else fails “Article 46. Next!

  31. nhpats says:
    July 23, 2018 at 2:50 pm
    backintheday99 says:
    July 23, 2018 at 2:05 pm
    Such a stigma for weed smokers. The world is not what the media presents itself to be. One would be surprised at who does what.

    My brother has a zillion dollar house and smokes weed all the time. He’s an attorney, so it’s after hours.

    —————

    Sounds like he is quite successful. So why does he need to chemically alter he brain to feel good about himself?

    —————————-

    You never have a drink to relax? Why do you make such assumptions about this guys feeling of self worth?

  32. Why are we assuming the kid did anything? Are we that quick to harp on the negative? Ohhhh, he must have done something. Perhaps he recognized that he was bout to make a turn for the worse and wanted to catch it before it did. I applaud him for taking that stance and trying to get it right this time instead of falling into old habits. Let’s let this play out and get the facts before we write article after article of nonsense.

  33. Considering the substances that were pumping through the player’s bodies on gameday in the 70’s, cocaine, alcohol, steroids, and opiates. Smoking a bit of weed on one’s own time seems harmless.

  34. Another big reason for the NFL to turn a blind-eye to marijuana use is that it’s has proven medicinal (pain relieving) properties and is not addictive, and NFL players need pain relief for playing a very physical sport.

  35. metatastic2000 says:
    July 23, 2018 at 2:30 pm
    Separate weed from other drugs as far as punishment goes. Basically do it like the NBA does and look the other way, unless there’s an arrest. No reason guys should be losing their careers over a damn plant. The whole thing is ridiculous.

    ————-

    Peyote and mushrooms are plants. Should those be allowed too?

  36. merde4brains says:
    July 23, 2018 at 4:08 pm
    Another big reason for the NFL to turn a blind-eye to marijuana use is that it’s has proven medicinal (pain relieving) properties and is not addictive, and NFL players need pain relief for playing a very physical sport.

    —————-

    If it is not addictive then why can’t a guy go without it long enough to earn millions of dollars per year?

  37. I find it so funny how all the “personal freedom” and “get the government off our backs” crowd suddenly want to tell you what you can do with YOUR body and want the government to arrest you for cannabis. Hypocrites rarely see the giant hypocrite staring them in the mirror.

  38. SparkyGump says:
    July 23, 2018 at 4:48 pm
    I find it so funny how all the “personal freedom” and “get the government off our backs” crowd suddenly want to tell you what you can do with YOUR body and want the government to arrest you for cannabis. Hypocrites rarely see the giant hypocrite staring them in the mirror.

    —————-

    I think you are confusing the Government with the NFL.

  39. “Maybe, then, the NFL finally has realized that its over-the-top obsession with players smoking marijuana hurts the game more than it helps the game, especially with marijuana no longer possessing the stigma it once did.”
    ============================

    The NFL Drug Policy is NEGOTIATED UNDER THE CBA. That means the NFLPA agreed to those terms. That means the players agreed to those terms.

    The NFL following the punishment guidelines as determined under the agreed-upon document does NOT MAKE IT AN OBSESSION.

    There is NO obsession.

  40. I’m of the opinion laws should be kept. I know that the left thinks rules should be optional. If you let the left run unhindered, they’ll ruin the NFL. That’s insane.

  41. Any decision that is left entirely to Roger to make will be ham-handed, awkwardly aggressive, and avoidant of facts. We have learned a thousand times over that the only way “justice” is metered out somewhat objectively is by keeping the decision OUT of Roger’s hands.

    I feel that the NFL is obligated to keep its players safe, and that they ought to be drug tested to ensure safety. I don’t have a problem with fines or suspensions. I do have a problem with interfering in players’ personal lives in the off-season. The marijuana and related rules are meant for safety on the field; a high football player at the highest level is a dangerous situation. But what does it matter if they smoke weed in March or April, etc when they aren’t on the job? It reeks of Roger grabbing all the power he can to enforce his will on individual players. He is a unique breed among commissioners.

  42. When someone can explain why the opiod epidemic is that out of hand that we will give anyone who knows an addict,and all law enforcement and health care workers Nalaxone to bring back OD cases from death 4 and 5 times, but can still get arrested for weed in a lot of those states, I’ll listen to all arguments as to why weed is “The Devils Lettuce”.
    PS, I get tested at work, so I haven’t partaken in over 20 years. I just don’t get the hypocrisy of it all.

  43. Might as well allow steroid and cocaine use too. If weed somehow.makes them better, imagine what these players could do getting pumped up on roids and doing a couple lines of blow before and during the games.

  44. Considering the majority of the players are dopers and juicers that would be a good game plan for them. That way they can hide more transgressions from the public who is completely sick of it.

  45. If there’s one thing we can’t deny, it’s that the species that don’t evolve, become extinct. That goes for societies too. We used to think the world was flat. We didn’t used to allow women to vote. Marijuana used to be illegal. We’re evolving people. That bodes well for our future.

  46. Liberalsruineverything says:
    July 23, 2018 at 5:44 pm

    The NFL needs to buy insurance like any other business. No insurance company is going to sell them insurance if their employees are high on the job. It’s that simple.
    ———————-

    How is it that the NBA can get along just fine by not testing their players for marijuana, and by having their players stand for the national anthem, yet the NFL can’t manage to do either?

    Oh yeah, Goodell is spineless.

  47. Let’s see…players want the league to stop treating marijuana use as an offense that triggers a suspension. But the owners aren’t going to do that without some type of player concession.

    The league desperately wants a solution to the national anthem protests but can’t really come up with one without the full support of the players and their union.

    There appears to be a deal to be made here.

  48. nhpats says:
    July 23, 2018 at 1:32 pm
    Is pot worse than alcohol? Unlikely. Certainly less harmful than tobacco. But people should ask themselves: “Why do I need to chemically alter my brain to feel good about myself”?

    Tell me about the last time someone got arrested for starting a bar room fight while using pot then tell me again how it’s worse than alcohol. I worked clubs for years and if we needed to choose which of those we should ban from planet earth I assure you we’re better off without alcohol.
    I’d like to be able to say the lack of knowledge and understanding about cannabis is shocking but it’s really not. I’m well over 60 and have a great job and use daily to help with IBS and other physical ailments. You must be a real old schooler. I spoke with teachers when I realized that the proms we host used to result in a dozen or more transports of drunken teens as well as fights, destruction of rest rooms doors etc etc. When I asked if they could explain they had a one word response, edibles. Alcohol vs pot? That race finished a long time ago and you came in a distant second.

    Meanwhile Julian Edelman sits 4 games for something we can’t identify. Sounds fair.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!