The State of the Union: Player Suspensions from Bell to Gates

An update on the suspensions of Antonio Gates, LeVeon Bell, Sheldon Richardson and more. 

Today the league dropped the hammer on a number of players including San Diego all-pro tight end, Antonio Gates. While the league doesn’t release the details of what sort of drug caused the violation, Gates stated today that it was his use of some sort of holistic stimulant that caused him to violate the leagues Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) Policy. Under the league’s new PED Policy signed last September, a positive test for a steroid, stimulant or HGH results in a four game ban without pay. In a statement today, Gates apologized to his team and indicated that he is not expected to appeal the suspension. 

Sigmund Bloom just posted a great article delving into the fantasy implications of Gates’ suspension. Although I would like to emphasize that Gates’ suspension is even more reason to spend a late round pick on new San Diego Chargers wide receiver Steve Johnson who currently has an ADP of 13.12. Johnson is stepping into Eddie Royal’s old slot role, working the middle of the field that Gates usually dominates. Royal has averaged 7.5 touchdowns the past two seasons and Johnson is a superior talent to Royal that has reportedly found an early rapport with Philip Rivers. 

As a brief overview of the league’s new PED Policy, a first violation will result in a suspension without pay for up to six games depending on the violation:

• Positive tests for diuretics or masking agents will result in a two-game ban;

• Positive tests for a steroid, stimulant or HGH will result in a four-game ban;

• Evidence that an attempt was made to manipulate a test result will result in a six-game suspension.

Players will then receive a 10-game suspension for a second violation of the Policy, while a third positive test will result in a suspension of at least two years.

Two other suspensions handed down today were for violations of the league’s new 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.

The Jets’ Sheldon Richardson is being suspended for four games, which is a blow to first year Head Coach, Todd Bowels, new defense. While the Jets fantasy defense will still be startable without Richardson, losing one of the league’s best defenders certainly hurts. He will miss games against the Browns, Colts, Eagles and Dolphins.

The biggest defensive loss could be felt in Dallas, where the Cowboys have lost linebacker Rolando McClain for four games. McClain resurrected his career last year after sitting out 2013 and provides the Cowboys with a dominant presence in the middle.

The loss of McClain is especially brutal since Defensive End Greg Hardy has been suspended for the first 10 games of the season under the league’s Personal Conduct Policy, where Commissioner Roger Goodell has carte blanche to determine fines and suspensions. Even though the court case against Hardy was dismissed, since the Ray Rice incident last year, the league has come down hard on cases of domestic abuse and has stated that they won’t rely on legal outcomes when dolling out their suspensions. Nonetheless, Hardy already missed 15 games last season on the Commissioner’s Exempt List and hired noted sports labor lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, who recently represented Tom Brady in his appeal hearing, to argue that the misconduct in question occurred under the league’s old Conduct Policy, which would have resulted in just a two game suspension. The appeal was heard more than 35 days ago and a ruling is expected any time.

Speaking of Tom Brady, we continue to wait on the outcome of his appeal of a pending four game suspension also for a violation of the legaues Personal Conduct Policy. If the Hardy appeal is any indication, a ruling isn’t going to happen any time soon.  If Brady’s suspension is upheld and Brady moves to try and fight the ruling in the courts, it is still doubtful he will be on the field for week one unless he is able to get some sort of injunction. As we saw with Adrian Peterson, even if you win in the courts, the league can appeal the decision, which could lasts months. In fact, the NFL’s court appeal still has not been heard in the Adrian Peterson case.  

We also found out today that Green Bay defensive end Datone Jones is being suspended for one game for possession of marijuana, which is a violation of the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy. We saw LeGarrette Blount get a similar penalty handed down to him earlier this year.  Jones is much more of a situational player and has had only five sacks since being picked by the Packers in the first round in 2013, so his absence from the team for one game should be minimal. 

Last on our list is fantasy stud Le'Veon Bell who was slapped with a three game suspension for driving under the influence (DUI) and possession of marijuana. Both infractions fall under the league’s Personal Conduct Policy. It appears Bell got one game for the posession charge and two games for the DUI.  As I mentioned in an article on Bell earlier this year, there is a chance he gets his suspension reduced, but certainly not entirely vacated.

Stay tuned as all these situations continue to unfold and we undoubtedly see some more marquee names added to the list. 

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