With Patriots receiver Josh Gordon facing another indefinite banishment from the NFL, following the indefinite banishment he previously served (which definitely covered two full seasons and then some), some have asked whether Gordon or any other player eventually can be suspended for good, with no chance of returning.
Based on the language of the substance-abuse policy, it appears that a player can, in theory, be suspended indefinitely an indefinite number of times, with the ability each time to return to the NFL.
Of course, each time a player is suspended indefinitely, he definitely must miss at least one year. And so, at some point, a player who misses multiple years during indefinite suspensions eventually will see age diminish his skills.
Also, for every player who is indefinitely suspended, it’s hardly automatic that he’ll be back after only one year. The last time this happened to Gordon, he missed well over two years before he secured reinstatement. If Gordon, who turns 28 in April, misses another two years, he’ll be 30 when he’s back.
Then there’s the reality that the player must continue to comply with the substance-abuse policy and program while away from the NFL. If the player can’t comply while in the game, it doesn’t get any easier to comply when he’s cut off from his team and left to his own devices.
Although a very small handful of players are ever ensnared in this extreme consequence for the failure to comply with the substance-abuse policy, those who get in have a hard time getting out.
But there’s still a path to resetting the clock. If a player who has been reinstated can avoid any positive tests for 24 months, he falls out of Stage III of the program and is no different than any other player, facing only one substance-abuse test per year.