By Tony Grossi
The Browns and Joe Haden knew a four-game suspension from the league was coming ever since he tested positive for Adderall, a banned stimulant, in a random NFL test in July. The positive test was first reported by ESPN Cleveland on Aug 8.
They also knew Haden’s hopes of winning an appeal were virtually zero.
Haden did not apply for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) before using the drug, which is commonly prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The drug is commonly abused to fight tiredness.
Haden’s formal appeal – plus the NFL’s apparent preoccupation with the Saints’ bounty suspension, the glitzy opening of the new season last Wednesday with the Giants-Cowboys game, and ongoing labor strife with locked-out game officials – allowed Haden to play in Sunday’s Browns’ opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Haden had a good game, playing each play like it were his last. He was credited with six tackles, one pass breakup and an interception, which he returned 50 yards to set up the Browns’ last points and a 16-10 lead. Alas, the Eagles scored in the final two minutes to win, 17-16.
And on Monday, the other shoe finally dropped.
The league announced Haden has been suspended without pay for four games for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances. The league's statement did not identify the specifics of Haden's violation. Haden has declined to comment or explain the positive test since ESPN Cleveland's initial report.
Haden’s suspension begins immediately. He was not in the Browns’ locker room when open to media on Monday. He cannot enter the Browns’ facility until reinstated on Oct. 8.
Haden will miss games against Cincinnati, Buffalo, Baltimore and the Giants. His first game eligible to play is Oct. 14 against Cincinnati in Cleveland Browns Stadium.
The Adderall issue is a controversial one in the NFL because some players have proved the need for the medication. But many others have abused the drug to give them a competitive lift. It is partly why the league and the NFL Players Association agreed in 2010 to close a loophole in the NFL substance abuse program.
Prior to 2010, players who tested positive for a banned substance had the chance to prove their need after the fact. Now, the TUE has to be granted by the league’s program administrator prior to a positive test. The TUE is granted only after demonstrating a clear medical reason for taking it.
The suspension will be costly to the Browns’ defense. Haden is one of the team’s top defensive players, to be sure. He will be replaced at starting left cornerback by Dimitri Patterson. Sheldon Brown, the starting right cornerback, left Sunday’s game with a stinger injury, but coach Pat Shurmur said Monday that Brown should be able to practice this week.
If Brown is able to play Sunday in Cincinnati, Buster Skrine would come in when the Bengals field three receivers and play left cornerback. Patterson would drop down to cover the receiver in the slot. If Brown can’t play Sunday, Skrine and Patterson would start the game and rookie Trevin Wade, who was inactive against Philadelphia, would enter in nickel situations. The Browns would have to decide if Patterson or Wade would cover the slot.
Still, the suspension is costlier to Haden, probably, than to his team.
The loss of four game checks amounts to more than $1.356 million based on Haden’s 2012 base salary of $5.765 million. Players are paid on a 17-week basis. So the suspension costs him 4/17ths of his base salary.
Further, per terms of league policy, which also was changed after 2010, Haden would be ineligible for selection to the Pro Bowl or to receive any other honors or awards from the league or the NFL Players Association for the 2012.
Drew Rosenhaus, Haden’s agent, who was at Sunday’s game in Cleveland, declined to comment in an email response.
Asked if the Browns had a comment, club spokesman Neal Gulkins replied via email, “We will not.”
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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