The big news today is that Nebraska linebacker Randy Gregory failed a drugs test at the combine. He tested positive for marijuana.
The assumption is this will damage his draft stock.
“Gregory plummets in Zierlein’s mock”
“Plummets” is a poor choice of words. A fall to #13 is hardly a “plummet”. He’s expected to go in the top ten but he’s far from the finished article. A drop into the teens wouldn’t be a shock. Nobody said Brian Orakpo “plummeted” down the board in 2009. He was taken with the #13 pick that year.
In another piece for NFL.com, Bucky Brooks answers questions on the subject with the following quotes:
“From a team perspective, Gregory’s admission to a failed test in January 2014 and April 2014 is a huge concern. He was coming off a sensational sophomore season that captivated the attention of scouts; several evaluators viewed him as a potential first-round prospect heading into the season. The fact that he had multiple positive tests in his most important season and that he continued to use marijuana despite being one strike away from being booted off the team suggests a deep-rooted problem with the drug.”
He goes on to add:
“It’s no secret the NFL has some marijuana users on its teams, but teams have problems accepting players who prioritize their recreational habits over football preparation.”
Brooks makes some fair points on the decision making and potential impact given what was at stake. I would ask, however, whether it’s fair to assume a player isn’t prioritizing football because he smokes pot? Is it as clear cut as that?
I understand clubs want their players to be clean, upstanding individuals. Any player who has a serious issue with drugs, well that is rightly going to be an issue. Does Gregory have a major problem? Or does he smoke pot for medicinal reasons? Is it slightly outdated to associate marijuana simply as a problematic substance, rather than a benefit in some cases? What are the facts here?
The NFL outlaws marijuana and punishes players severely if they break the rules. That counts if you smoke one joint or one hundred. Fail a drugs test and you’re immediately in stage one of the NFL’s substance abuse program.
The league is arguably correct to take a hard-line stance when you consider smoking pot is illegal in most states. Yet if you smoke pot legally in Washington State and are tested as a member of the Seahawks, you are still placed on the substance abuse program.
The obvious case to look at is that of Josh Gordan. During the course of his career he’s faced suspensions lasting two games, one season (reduced to ten games) and now one full season. All due to substance abuse. Greg Hardy in comparison is expected to face a six game suspension this year through the NFL’s new personal conduct policy.
How is that right?
If you missed the issue regarding Hardy, here’s a breakdown of the situation:
A district judge in Mecklenburg County found Hardy guilty in July of assaulting and threatening to kill ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder during an early-morning altercation at Hardy’s uptown condo last May.
Hardy immediately appealed the decision and was granted a jury trial, which was scheduled to begin Feb. 9.
The morning of the trial, however, prosecutors told the judge they were dropping the charges because multiple attempts to find Holder – including setting up surveillance at her new residence – were unsuccessful.
District attorney Andrew Murray said Hardy had reached a settlement with Holder for an undisclosed amount to settle any civil claims.
The NFL’s new personal conduct policy, approved by owners after Hardy’s conviction, calls for a six-game suspension for first-time violations involving assault, sexual assault and domestic violence. Previously, first-time offenders typically received two-game suspensions.
Josh Gordon has so far missed twelve games. By the end of the 2015 season, he’ll have missed 28. Hardy will likely miss six and then return to play for the Dallas Cowboys.
In 2013 Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond served a four game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Prior to the change in personal conduct policy, you would serve half that suspension if you found yourself in a deplorable situation like Hardy’s.
That’s a difficult one to explain.
NFL needs to make marijuana a permitted painkiller so we can move past this conflation of smoking pot with actual serious character issues
— Sigmund Bloom (@SigmundBloom) March 26, 2015
Alcohol/prescription painkillers can lead to much worse social and medical issues. Marijuana also helps with anxiety/stress. Let's move on.
— Sigmund Bloom (@SigmundBloom) March 26, 2015
Sigmund Bloom raises a fair point, whether you agree or not. Is it time for the league to have this discussion? Otherwise the assumption will always be a player like Gregory is a serious character concern, fair or not.
For what it’s worth Gregory has addressed the matter in an interview with Kimberly Jones:
“I don’t wake up every day saying, I’d really love to go smoke,” he said. “It’s not a struggle for me every day (now), it really isn’t. In the past, hell yeah, it’s been a struggle. It really has been. Now, I’m focused on my dream.
“I want people to really understand that I know I made a mistake, for one,” Gregory said. “That I knew what I had coming up (the combine), and I still made that mistake. That was dumb.
“I want people to understand I’m not some dumb jock pothead. I’m not,” he added. “I’m intelligent. I love the people who help me, I love my family, I love my support group. I love football. I love winning. And I don’t want to be labeled as some bust that couldn’t make it because he smoked. And I won’t be labeled as that.
“So I just want people to understand that. This may be a setback. You may look at me a certain way, but at the end, I’m still going to be on top. I’m still going to do well.”
I think it comes down to this:
1. Is marijuana such a problem for Gregory that it will have a serious impact on his career?
2. Can he quit?
3. Should he have to quit, or should the NFL adjust it’s stance on marijuana?
Ultimately Randy Gregory hasn’t harmed anyone but himself (stock and health). This is something that perhaps needs to be remembered by the 32 NFL teams — some of which entertained the idea of signing Greg Hardy.