Waiting In Limbo: Suspensions and Camp Holdouts - Footballguys

A look at the notable pending suspensions and holdouts of LeVeon Bell, Josh Gordon, LeSean McCoy, Robby Anderson and others. 

This is actually a relatively slow year for major suspension drama in the NFL. There are no Tom Brady deflategate proceedings and no Ezekiel Elliott court filings to discuss. However, there are still a few outstanding situations worth following that could impact your fantasy season.

Possible CONDUCT SUSPENSIONS

LeSean McCoy

The largest looming suspension situation concerns all-pro running back LeSean McCoy. In a plot right out of the movies, McCoy is being accused of hiring someone to break into his own house and steal from, and possibly assault, his long time, now ex-girlfriend.

In July, McCoy’s ex-girlfriend was sleeping in one of McCoy’s homes near Atlanta, Georgia, when the house was broken into. The perpetrator stole some jewelry and severely beat up his ex-girlfriend during the robbery. The cops were called, a police report was filed and the following day a good friend of the ex-girlfriend posted on Instagram gruesome photos of the victim along with a lengthy accusation that McCoy was behind the beating. Additionally, this friend accused McCoy of beating dogs, beating his son and using illegal drugs.

For his part, McCoy denied any involvement in the robbery and stated that he didn't have any "direct contact" with his ex-girlfriend for months before the incident occurred. However, he did indicate that he had been trying to get her evicted from his house for months and that the police had to be called on a few occasions.

Things have seemingly died down since the early July assault and police have still not named any suspects. However, that doesn’t mean the case has gone away. Just last week, his ex-girlfriend filed a 22-page lawsuit claiming that McCoy and his friend, Tamarcus Porter, are “liable for the injuries she suffered on July 10 when McCoy’s Milton home was broken into, and she was assaulted by a lone suspect.”

While no criminal charges have been filed yet, as we learned in the Elliott case last year, the NFL doles out its own justice. Under the leagues Personal Conduct Policy, Commissioner Roger Goodell has free reign under the collective bargaining agreement to investigate and suspend as he pleases.

Unfortunately, at the moment we have no idea where the league is with their internal investigation of the issue, but there is no doubt that they are conducting one. The Bills say McCoy is likely to be a part of the team for the entire season and McCoy said he is "very confident" that he will be on the field for Week 1. However, Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft made similar proclamations with their star players Elliott and Brady in years past, just to be proven wrong.

McCoy also has a sketchy history that that league is well aware of and has had repeated episodes of inappropriate behavior. There was a party bus episode where he invited 15 women onto the bus and allegedly assaulted one of them, before apparently ditching her on the side of the road on the New York turnpike, and more recently, he and his entourage were caught on camera getting into a fight at a club in Center City.

Early drafters have reacted cautiously, although they haven’t wholly shied away, to this news, dropping his ADP from the early second round down to the early to mid-third.

I don’t foresee a league-mandated suspension this season for McCoy since the NFL usually takes its time investigating these things, but the Commissioner’s Exempt List that was used for Adrian Peterson certainly could be in play for McCoy. In that scenario, McCoy would still get paid, but would not be allowed to play. It all comes down to how much new evidence comes out and how much media attention this case gets during the season.

If this case continues to be low key, then he should play all season. On the other hand, if there is a media frenzy or video or texts messages emerge, look for him to be exempt listed quickly after that.

He’s a risk-reward pick at the moment, but also keep in mind that the Bills have one of the worst offensive lines (and offenses in general) in the league. McCoy also turned 30 this year and had handled a heavy workload since coming into the league.

Antonio Callaway

Another player that has recently found himself in trouble with the law is Cleveland Browns rookie receiver, Antonio Callaway. Last week Callaway was pulled over for speeding at 3:00 am, was driving on a suspended license, and was found to have marijuana, a gun, and bullets in his car. The officer appeared to be a Browns fan, so Callaway avoided arrest, getting off with just a ticket. He later claimed that his car had recently been shipped to him and he didn’t know any of these things were in it.

This was not a good look especially since Callaway has a long history of trouble. While attending the University of Florida, Callaway was suspended due to an accusation of sexual assault. While the women never reported the incident to the police, the University of Florida suspended him for violating the school's code of conduct policy.

It doesn’t end there. Callaway was suspended his final season in college as part of an investigation into felony credit card fraud. He also was cited for marijuana possession in May 2017, stopped by police while riding in a car with a career criminal, and then failed a drug test at the recent NFL combine. He entered the NFL in Stage 1 (or perhaps even Stage 2) of the leagues NFL substance abuse program.

The NFL has to be very concerned with Callaway’s behavior, especially since it was laid bare nationally on the television show Hard Knocks. It would be a surprise if he didn’t receive at least a one- or two-game suspension for this latest incident that seemingly represents conduct detrimental to the league. This could be one reason the Browns are looking to sign Dez Bryant.

For reference, here is the NFL’s substance abuse policy:

  • A first offense will put the player into the league's drug program.
  • A second offense is a two-game fine.
  • A third offense is a four-game fine.
  • A fourth offense is a four-game suspension.
  • A fifth offense is a 10-game suspension.
  • A sixth offense is a one-year suspension.

Robby Anderson

One of the leagues most dangerous deep threats, Anderson had 941 yards and 7 touchdowns last season, averaging 14.5 fantasy points per game, not including the few Bryce Petty starts.

Unfortunately, Anderson can’t get out of his own way and will undoubtedly receive at least a two-game suspension, if not more, at some point during the season. In May of 2017 he was arrested for allegedly pushing a cop at a Miami music festival, then in January of this year, he was arrested after allegedly fleeing from a police officer, then hitting the gas to get away, reaching speeds of over 100 miles per hour. Yes, he ran from the police. After being arrested, he then threatened to sexually assault the officer's wife. In June he pleaded no contest and received six months of report-by-mail probation.

SUBSTANCE ABUSE

Josh Gordon

After being reinstated mid-way through last season, Gordon re-dedicated himself to football and had a great off-season, working out a lot with Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Unfortunately, as soon as it came time to report to training camp, Gordon decided to check himself back into a rehab facility in Florida.

Reports have been pretty adamant that Gordon did not violate the drug policy again, however, beyond that, things are a bit murky. There are reports that he didn’t want to appear on Hard Knocks, there are reports he’s not happy with his salary, which is just $800,000, and then there are reports he just needed to get his mind right before the season started.

Whatever the case, he is working out in Florida, and because he didn't fail a test, no suspension is anticipated once he returns. The Browns seem optimistic he's returning sometime soon, and both Head Coach Hue Jackson and teammate Rashard Higgins have been in contact with him. Another motivating factor ... Gordon owes around $6,500 a month in child support or he goes to prison starting this month.

The best guess is that he returns to the team when Hard Knocks wraps its filming on September 1st or 2nd, giving him 8 days to train with the team to get ready for Week 1, while avoiding his life being filmed in detail without his control.

For what its worth, former All Pro Browns left tackle, Joe Thomas, mentioned on his podcast earlier this year that he has never seen an as physically gifted athlete as Gordon in his life and that it always amazed him how Gordon could show up after being away for so long and look so great. He even stated that during Gordon's breakout season in 2013, Gordon played at around 240 pounds! He has top five-fantasy receiver upside.

Martavis Bryant

Things looked ominous for Bryant in June when reports surfaced that the Raiders feared a potential suspension related to the NFL's substance-abuse policy was coming. Any violation of that policy would have led to an automatic yearlong suspension.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported there was some issue with Bryant, but it's not clear whether it will result in any suspension. Rapoport added things were fine when Bryant met with league officials in late April.

As of today, there is no word whether or not these rumors are true and Bryant has been practicing every day in Raiders camp. Possibly more concerning is his play in camp, where he has struggled with the playbook, although he seems to be coming on a bit more now.

While he may not catch a ton of passes, running deep is something he does as well as anybody in the league, so the touchdowns could be there as long as he is allowed to play.

COLLUSION?

Colin Kaepernick

Kaepernick’s collusion case against the NFL is still ongoing, and according to Serena Williams, who is a minority owner of the Miami Dolphins, Kaepernick seems resigned to the fact that his playing days are behind him and he’s content in his new role as a social activist.

A ruling on his collusion case should be coming down soon and seems even more tenuous now than ever after John Elway stated that the Broncos offered him a contract sometime in the past two years. However, team Kaepernick is well aware of this, and their case is perhaps revolving around possible collusion between Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and President Donald Trump. Beyond that, if even just two teams colluded, that would be enough for Kaepernick to win his case, regardless of whether the Broncos offered him a contract or not. It's a very tough case to prove though.

While his winning the case is a long shot, the repercussions of him losing could reverberate throughout the league and beyond during the season. There could be an enormous backlash against the NFL from his supporters including calls for boycotts and protests throughout the season. Hold on tight, we might not have seen anything yet.

Eric Reid

Kaepernick’s good friend and fellow protester, Reid has yet to be signed by an NFL team either. That may be in large part due to Reid suing the league for collusion months before the season even began. There is still a chance Reid is signed by some team, but suing the league is not going to endear him to many of the owners. He did recently work out for the Titans, although they decided to sign Kenny Vaccaro instead.

As far as talent goes, Reid earned a middle-of-the-road 70.3 overall grade by Pro Football Focus last season, which ranked him around 44th overall at the position. He’s capable of playing at safety, slot cornerback, off-ball linebacker, and on the edge, giving him multiple level versatility. He really excelled as a slot corner, allowing just an 84.4 passer rating and 0.8 yards per coverage snap when lined up there. He would make a great addition for many teams.

HOLDOUTS

Le'Veon Bell

Unfortunately for Bell, the Steelers were never genuinely interested in paying him close to what he’s worth. He can make up the $33 million guarantee offered by the Steelers by merely playing on his tag (again) this year and signing a one-year deal next year, so it made no sense to lock himself into a long-term contract for the same price.

Last year Bell averaged 27 touches a game, the next highest player was Todd Gurley with 22 a game. In 2016 Bell averaged 28 touches a game, with second place being David Johnson at 23 touches a game. The Steelers plan all along seems to have been to run Bell into the ground and then discard him for a cheaper option; rinse and repeat.

With Toddy Gurley resetting the elite running back market (those few running backs that can grind out tough yards on the ground and catch the ball as well as top receivers) by signing a $45 million guaranteed contract this pre-season, look for Bell to sign something similar next year.

Therein lays the rub. To get that sort of deal, Bell has to stay healthy. Like last season, he is likely to report to camp right around September 1 when final cuts are made and when preparation for Week 1 begins. Bell could indeed start the year slowly again like he did last season. Also, will he pull a hamstring due to conditioning issues? And if he does sprain an ankle or hamstring during the regular season, will he play through it?

Individual Defensive Player Holdouts

Three other players holding out are defensive ends Aaron Donald (Rams) and Khalil Mack (Raiders), along with safety Earl Thomas (Seahawks).

There is a chance Donald does get a new deal before the season starts, but most likely he will get his big payday next year after the Rams just dropped serious coin on Brandin Cooks, Todd Gurley and a slew of free agent signings. He's scheduled to earn $6.9 million in 2018 after collecting $10.2 million to this point in his career.

Mack is even less likely to miss games since he is set to earn $13.8 million this season after collecting $18.7 million previously.

Thomas, on the other hand, is in the final year of a 4-year, $40,000,000 contract that included a $9,500,000 signing bonus, $25,725,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $10,000,000. He will earn a base salary of $8,500,000 this season.

Thomas is the one player who actually might miss games. The Seahawks have no intention of giving him a new contract now or ever, and unless they get a trade offer that blows them away, he’s staying put for the year. One agent predicted that Thomas would hold out until Week 8, play out the year and depart as a free agent next season. The Seahawks could really use his services, as could many other teams.

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