NFL Suspends Multiple Players for Drug Test Failures and PED Use

If we've learned one thing about the NFL, it's that the best time to keep your eye on the newswire isn't on draft night, during training camp or on the day of the Super Bowl. The one time to watch for news is on the afternoon of the getaway day before a long weekend.

You can set your watch to it — if there is some sort of news that is going to cast the league in a bad light or put a negative stain on the image of the league, Roger Goodell and his band of minions will try to slide it through during an afternoon where 80 percent of the free world is trying to get to a beach, an airport or a bar somewhere before a three- or four-day weekend. It happened last year when the Ray Rice suspension was first announced (the short two-game suspension, not the post-video de facto career ender) — it was announced on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. 

Well done, Rog.

So yesterday, on a Thursday when everyone with a job at a company with a conventional government calendar, Goodell decided to make public the suspensions of a handful of prominent players, three for substance abuse policy violations (Rolando McClain and Sheldon Richardson for four games, Datone Jones for one) and one for PED policy violations (Antonio Gates). It was a noble try, but unfortunately, in the age of Twitter and cyberspace, Rog wasn't fooling anybody. 

By 2 p.m., the suspensions were flowing so freely, we had a wager going on my radio show on what we'd see more of on Thursday, NFL suspensions or max contracts to slightly better than average NBA players. So let's take a deeper dive into the NFL's scarlet letter brigade, the Suspension Class of 2015, if you will.

ROLANDO McCLAIN, LB, Dallas Cowboys
Suspension Length: 4 games
Suspension Type: Substance abuse
Games Missed: 9/13 vs Giants, 9/20 @ Eagles, 9/27 vs Falcons, 10.4 @ Saints
Returning For: 10/11 vs Patriots
Apology: "I apologize to my family, the Cowboys organization, my teammates and Cowboys fans for my mistake. I will not break the rules of my profession in the future, and I regret my error. I look forward to returning to the field on week 5, when I hope to help my team beat the Patriots."
Impact: McClain was a revelation for the Cowboys last season, filling in at a high level after Sean Lee went down with a knee injury and nearly winning Comeback Player of the Year honors. With Lee back, the Cowboys should be ok, but between this suspension and Greg Hardy's 10 game ban, the Cowboys will be operating on a thin string early in the season.

Suspension Length: 4 games
Suspension Type: Substance abuse
Games Missed: 9/13 vs Browns, 9/21 @ Colts, 9/27 vs Eagles, 10/4 @ Dolphins
Returning For: 10/18 vs Redskins
Apology: "I apologize for letting down my family, teammates, this organization and the fans. However, words aren't enough. This is something that can only be addressed by how I handle myself from this point on. I don't want this to take away from what the team is trying to accomplish. While I won't be there at the start of the regular season, I will do whatever I can to support my teammates until I'm able to return to the field."
BONUS - Apology Tweet:

Impact: If the Jets knew this was a possibility (and if a four-game suspension is being handed down, it means there were previous drug test failures for Richardson), then the drafting of Leonard Williams makes even more sense now. Richardson is an impact player on the Jets defense, and this certainly puts a crimp in Todd Bowles's game planning for the first month of his head coaching career.

ANTONIO GATES, TE, San Diego Chargers
Suspension Length: 4 games
Suspension Type: PED
Games Missed: 9/13 vs Lions, 9/20 @ Bengals, 9/27 @ Vikings, 10/4 vs Browns
Returning For: 10/12 vs Steelers
Apology: "In my 12 years in the NFL, I have taken tremendous pride in upholding the integrity of the NFL shield and all that it entails. I have taken extreme care of my body with a holistic approach and never taken any substance that was illegal or banned by the NFL. In an effort to recover from a long season and although I was unaware at the time, I regret to confirm that I tested positive for a substance that is currently on the NFL banned substance list. As an NFL veteran and team leader, I should have done my due diligence to ensure that what I was taking for recovery was within the NFL guidelines. I have always believed that ignorance is no excuse when it comes to these issues, and I take full responsibility for my actions."
Impact: Last season, Gates's 12 touchdowns tied him with Julius Thomas and Rob Gronkowski for most by a tight end in the league. There's no way to sugarcoat it, Philip Rivers will miss Gates. The good news is the Chargers don't play any division games during the first month of the season. 

DATONE JONES, DE, Green Bay Packers
Suspension Length: 1 game
Suspension Type: Substance abuse
Game Missed: 9/13 @ Bears
Returning For: 9/20 vs Seahawks
Apology: NONE (yet)
Impact: Jones had 1.5 sacks in 13 games last season. He barely had an impact when he was playing, so nothing to see here really.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.

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