NFL helps itself by helping players with drug issues

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When Browns receiver Josh Gordon didn’t show up for training camp under circumstances that were sold and reported as Gordon making the decision on his own, something seemed fishy. When he returned to camp with his ability to practice and play hinging on league approval, it became more obvious that the league had a hand in Gordon’s absence.

That’s significant because, given his status under the substance-abuse program, there’s not much gray area. For players who return from a minimum banishment of one year, they land in Stage 3 permanently. One false move is supposed to result in another banishment, with the ability to apply for reinstatement after another one-year absence.

But the NFL isn’t applying the policy quite as stringently as it may have in the past, apparently giving players like Gordon, Martavis Bryant, and Randy Gregory the benefit of the doubt instead of throwing them out of the league.

Nearly three months ago, a report emerged that the Raiders were bracing for the league to suspend Bryant for at least a year. The Raiders cut Bryant earlier this month, under the apparent assumption that the shoe of Big Shield justice was going to drop on Bryant, again. Indeed, coach Jon Gruden openly mused about bringing Bryant back next year.

And now the Raiders are on the verge of bringing Bryant back this year.

In Dallas, a similar dynamic seems to be playing out with Gregory, a promising defensive end whose career has been derailed by substance-abuse issues. He reportedly had a relapse in August. Under the terms of the policy (and given the league’s past throw-the-book-at-them precedent), Gregory should be gone for at least another year. He’s not, and he may not be.

While it would be nice to attribute this potential epiphany to altruism, the NFL in helping players with off-field issues is helping itself. Bryant, Gregory, and Gordon are great performers who make the game more compelling. At a time when ratings are down and the supply of highly-talented players could become more limited, why force great players out of the game over issues that have nothing to do with their employment?

If that’s indeed what’s occurring, it’s smart for the league to quit looking for ways to keep players who smoke marijuana or use other recreational drugs from playing and to start finding ways to keep them on the field and help them in the process.

20 responses to “NFL helps itself by helping players with drug issues

  1. Playing at that high of a level is stressful and taxing on your mind, body, and spirit. Not including all the problems fans can cause if they don’t get the results they think they deserve. I don’t blame them for needing a stress relief.

  2. There’s the additional fact that these guys can still perform and they’re far more likely to break the drug habit when under babysitter supervision. The NFL doesn’t look good tossing out people who haven’t hurt anyone else (physically) with problems that they can help provide resources to potentially fix and the come back stories if they are able to overcome their issues are wonderful. It’s really not much of a downside to the NFL.

  3. help the players even more by taking cannabis off the banned substance list immediately.
    And, no, don’t use it as a negotiating chip. just take it off the list now and do not test for it any longer.

    cannabis can be a safer alternative to prescription medications for chronic pain that many NFL player have to live with.

  4. The league is only using marijuana testing as a chip for the next labor negotiations at this point.

    Come 2021 it will be gone and the players will give up something major in return- most likely either anthem issue or 18 game schedule. I would predict in maybe 2020 though that the league starts enforcing the rule again big time to remind the players of what could happen if they reFuse to negotiate.

  5. Greg Swaney is spot on.

    Some of the best athletes are also tortured, in one way or the other.

    Mentally, physically, spiritually.

    Keeping the players healthy in every facet may require a relaxing of the existing rules, a better understanding of what certain drugs (pakalolo) can accomplish and more empathy from the league and those who are, shall we say, behind the times.

    Conservative posturing in the name of morality needs to go by the wayside.

    Denying science in 2018 is like denying that the sky is blue and water is wet.

  6. When you take into account the new rule changes, you conclude that the owners have some pretty severe drug issues themselves.

  7. Rigid drug suspensions reinforce that addiction is just a moral failing. Most of us who have dealt with it seriously professionally among our friends, family or maybe ourselves…know that it is more complex involving choices and behaviors as well mental health and physical body chemistry. A more nuanced approach by the NFL makes sense. It never made sense to me to have players banned from the team and facility for drug suspensions. In fact it seemed the worst thing to do. Rather it makes sense to suspend them without pay for games, but allow them to keep and develop support at the team facility, with team medical and support staff.

  8. Will they be reaching out to Aldon Smith? They should lend an olive branch to that young man who clearly has inner demons to fend off.

  9. The NFL should just take marijuana off the banned substance list. It doesn’t give you any advantage on the field and becoming legal in more and more states and getting medical licenses are super easy.

  10. Ok, pot heads. It’s still illegal. Just because a few liberal states are now selling it, it’s still illegal nationwide.

  11. It would be nice to find out the league is either looking out for the quality of their entertainment product or the best interests of the players but I wonder if their legal dept is whispering in their ear that 1 of those players (Bryant) plays in a state that has completely legalized the use of MJ? If a few players from teams located in CA, WA, CO, etc get banned & hire a class action attorney, would the league want to fight it? Even if they win a lawsuit after years of appeals, they lose big in public opinion & esp w/ the NFLPA.

  12. This is the end result of the NFL crowing itself as “Hall Monitor” Several high profile players that didn’t run afoul of the law but trapped by drug testing have ruined several players careers and have the fans waiting for the “other shoe to drop” costing their favorite team to lost games and even cost their entire season.

    No wonder the NFL has a ratings problem. Add in lousy officiating, useless rules that “sissify” the game and, yes, the Anthem issue.

    And it is entirely self inflicted. Welcome to today’s NFL. It’s not just a game anymore.

  13. Every bad decision is not met best with punishment.
    Rehabilitation – in particular circumstances – has a high success rate than punishment.

  14. To be obsessed with anything is a serious issue and or illness

    Extreme pressure from family, friends, & loved ones & from a very young age to become a superstar athlete is enormous

    Many children careers are picked by others
    We’re infuenced early on, & many times it’s not even our choices to pursue a thing
    We live to please others & to achieve the goals predetermined for us

    I feel like people beginning as youths, are brainwashed sort of speak.
    Then coached & any times excessively without sincere consideration from the child
    Depriving children ” Normal ” lives & activities & failure without being berated & demeaned like the typical athlete is

    No wonder kids get into drugs, alcohol, & other harmful activities in place of & for recreation

    Athletes have been made larger than life even as kids
    Made into perfectionist with little to no room for error

    Getting high as a relief valve WILL be more attractive

    This WILL of course spill out over into adult life,,,, sports, Attys, doctors, physicists, etc

    Thx NFL for coming around for the vulnerable ones who also just happen to line your pockets revenue wise

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