20 years ago, Bernard Williams became the first NFL player to sit out for a full season after testing positive for marijuana. Recently, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon tested positive for marijuana and faces up to a year suspension.
Bernard Williams was a high draft pick (no pun intended) by the Philadelphia Eagles out of the University of Georgia for the 1994 season. The left tackle was chosen to protect the blindside of Randall Cunningham. Fifteen or so failed drug tests later, Williams was out of the league. At the time, the NFL did not have a marijuana policy. The Eagles' training staff were the only ones who knew of his failed tests. The team discretely sent him to rehab. Somehow, the NFL got wind of what was going on and went to find Bernard Williams. At first, they suspended him for six weeks. He was benched on week seven, before the league suspended him indefinitely. Williams was ordered to get professional help for his addiction and was subject to random testing once reinstated.
Williams career would never get back to first-round-pick status. He would play professional football in Canada and also have a stint in the XFL. Bernard Williams' beginnings resemble fellow NFL alum, Heisman trophy winner Ricky Williams. Fifth pick overall in 1999, Ricky Williams failed a few drug tests, “retired” from the NFL, and then played in Canada. Unlike Bernard, Ricky made it back to the NFL to have a respectable career.
In 2014, the acceptable THC limit that passes an NFL marijuana screening is 15 nanograms (ten times less than what Olympic athletes worry about for a World Anti-Doping Agency test). The NFL has never had a common sense approach about marijuana use among their players. Failed tests drastically alters these guys' careers, more so compared to most performance enhancing drug (PED) users that litter pro sports. Plus, most PEDs run through your system in a few days, whereas marijuana takes a month to clear out.
It is valid to argue that if a construction worker were to test positive for marijuana, he or she would lose the job all together. Many believe NFL players are millionaires and can afford to lose their job for a year. Blue-collar America never signed contracts with money guaranteed.
If you operate machinery that could kill you or others, you probably should be checked out. If you work in a drug rehab center, it would be reasonable to be screened. It would probably be a good practice for all rehabilitation employees, yes jails and prisons, to be tested before and during employment. There are valid reasons to drug test employees. For the most part these employees aren't actually working while being stoned-to-the-bone. Yes, some do, and if so, their boss should reserve the right to fire them on the spot. Playing football seems to be an activity that you wouldn't want to perform while high.
Josh Gordon wasn't showing up to Browns' games smoking bowls in the locker room for the past season. If so, what were his opponents on? Heroin? Gordon torched the league last year. He led the league in receiving yards, second in yards per catch, and had the most catches over 20 yards in 2013.
It would be a shame to see the NFL make Gordon follow the same path as Bernard Williams or Ricky Williams. Those three potheads were picked pretty high in the NFL draft by general managers who saw past their weed habits or didn't care to ask how much chronic they planned on smoking. Buffalo Bills General Manager Doug Whaley had mixed emotions at the 2014 NFL draft about choosing players out of the pot closet.
Prior to the draft, prospective players show off their skills and measurements at the NFL draft combine. NFL teams run these potential draft choices through all sorts of tests, including drug tests. Miami Hurricane offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson tested positive for marijuana at the combine. The incident made Henderson an at-risk pick. Needless to say, the failed test sent him to the middle of the final round at 237th overall. He was picked by the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills also had the 4th overall pick in the draft. They traded up to get it. The Bills selected Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Watkins was arrested in 2012 for marijuana possession. That incident was overlooked by Whaley and the Bills. Perhaps because it was two years ago and will not affect Watkins' playing time.
Those picks may be a sign of what NFL teams and GMs think about marijuana. They're upset at you for getting suspended because you won't be able to play. However, they're not upset about you smoking some ganja every now and then. Most fans feel the same way. The biggest misconception about NFL players smoking weed is that it affects their performance on the field. These players had marijuana red flags on draft day: Jamaal Lewis, Mushin Muhammed, Nate Newton, Ahmad Brooks, Percy Harvin, Warren Sapp, Randy Moss, Vontaze Burfict. These guys have been great players in the league, despite their THC intake.
Josh Gordon's suspension will state the NFL's stance on marijuana for the time-being. NFL GMs and coaches have already shown they don't care about marijuana. As long as you can play (not be suspended) then you can even start. The owners always have the final say and they would like to think they speak for the fans. The fans would hate miss seeing Josh Gordon play in the prime of his career.