By Tony Grossi
Extra Points …
Makes no sense: The scales of justice in the NFL teeter on the absurd.
Recently, San Francisco linebacker Clark Haggans had an expected six-game NFL suspension reduced to three games. It was the result of a 2011 drunken driving conviction. Haggans reportedly pleaded guilty to “extreme DUI” – meaning his blood alcohol level was over twice the legal limit.
Meanwhile, Browns cornerback Joe Haden is serving a four-game suspension for taking Adderall, a stimulant on the NFL’s banned substance list, in the non-football playing month of July.
Haden’s penalty is personally financially severe – about $1.4 million of his base salary – as well as hurtful to the Browns. In Haden’s first game out, they gave up three touchdowns and 318 yards passing in Cincinnati. This week, the Browns are scrambling to recover by mixing the combination of cornerbacks and safeties.
Linebacker Scott Fujita, who is a member of the NFLPA executive board, shakes his head when asked about the inconsistencies in the league’s justice system. “It’s complicated. Don’t get me started on all that, please,” he said.
Fujita himself is fighting a three-game suspension for alleged involvement in the New Orleans Saints “pay-for-performance” program in 2009. He admits to pledging money to a team kitty to pay for big plays such as turnovers, sacks and defensive touchdowns.
Fujita’s comments on Haden’s misdeed and his punishment are the most extensive of anyone with the Browns.
Background: The NFL has not specified the reason for Haden’s suspension other than to say he violated the performance-enhancing substance program. ESPNCleveland reported Haden tested positive for Adderall in a random NFL drug test given in July.
Adderall is prescribed for patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is commonly abused to combat excessive tiredness.
The NFL used to waive a suspension over a positive Adderall test if a player demonstrated a medical need for the drug after the fact. Since 2010, the league requires the NFL substance program administrator to decide whether a player has the need for the drug prior to a positive test. Haden did not have the required Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) to use it.
Haden has not commented or explained his use of Adderall.
Fujita’s take: Fujita said, “I don’t even know much about Adderall use in general, but all of a sudden I’m hearing about it a lot more lately. It seems to me there has to be a common sense solution, where if there’s a player who tests positive for a stimulant like that during a non-football time, I think he ought to be put into maybe the drug problem rather than (it be considered) a positive steroids test.”
The NFL has zero tolerance for banned substances and steroids. One positive test and there’s an automatic suspension. But for street drugs or alcohol violations, the league does not issue a suspension until a second violation.
For instance, Haggan’s 2011 DUI arrest reportedly was the second of his NFL career; hence, his first suspension.
“I’m betting (Haden) probably didn’t even know what he was doing was against the rules,” Fujita said. “Maybe we all need to do a better job of relating that message to the guys.
“I’m assuming Joe went in for his hearing and I’m sure the arbitrator even said, ‘Hey, this is the most ridiculous rule I’ve ever heard, but these are the rules in black and white, so I have to rule this way.’
“That’s a huge issue for him to lose four games like that -- a lot of money, reputation, and all that. You would think common sense could just dictate a resolution that way.”
As a result of the suspension, Haden is disqualified from consideration for the Pro Bowl or other post-season honors.
Fujita believes that the timing of the test – reportedly in July, before the season – should lessen the suspension. It’s not like Haden was using the stimulant to enhance his performance.
“I personally think that,” Fujita said. “Others may disagree, saying the rules are the rules. Joe’s a great guy. He loves to come to work. Great guy in the community. He made one small mistake. You can be arrested for selling crack cocaine and be (placed in the NFL) drug program and not lose any games if it’s your first offense.”
During the suspension, Haden is prohibited from entering the team facility and being around the team. Fujita said that “disconnect” is an awful feeling.
Fujita was to begin serving his three-game suspension the first week of the season. Late in the week, a three-member panel temporarily lifted it, enabling Fujita to rejoin his teammates.
“I know this is tough for him not being around his team. I know what it was like for me for four days just being a block away. It’s got to be killing him,” Fujita said.
|rns for the rematch with the Bengals on Oct. 14. By then, will it matter?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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