New substance-abuse policy won’t give Aldon Smith a clean slate

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The new substance-abuse policy ends the practice of imposing suspensions on players who test positive for marijuana or other non-PEDS. However, that protection doesn’t extend to players who have been suspended for more than a year and then reinstated.

For the same reason Smith didn’t receive an automatic reinstatement under the revamped policy, he also doesn’t benefit from the broad elimination of suspensions under it. Per the plain terms of the new policy, he remains subject to another indefinite ban for any violation of the policy or his specific treatment plan.

Which means that, in theory, one positive test can get him suspended for another year, at a minimum.

Whether and to what extent the league aggressively implements suspensions under this provision remains to be seen. Even before the substance-abuse policy was revised, it seemed that the NFL was less willing to throw the book at players who had been suspended and reinstated and more willing to help them remain in the league.

The goal of the revised substance-abuse policy was to get out of the knee-jerk suspension business and to get into the business of helping players who may be suffering from dependency issues. The problem with the revised policy is that, as written, it doesn’t extend the same treatment to players who were on the outside looking in when the policy was revised.