ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The biggest winners poised to emerge from a revised NFL drug policy that the league’s players voted to accept Friday are fellow players currently serving suspensions that could be relaxed or even vacated.
Among those who could have their penalties overturned are Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick and Miami Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan, each of whom was suspended four games this year under the performance-enhancing drug policy after testing positive for a banned amphetamine.
The new drug policy would be retroactive to March 11, 2014, the first day of the current NFL year, if it receives full approval from union lawyers and the league.
“All I know is (Welker is) one the best teammates and one of the best guys in the locker room that I’ve ever played with. My understanding is, if this policy gets passed, it could benefit guys like him,” Broncos tight end Jacob Tamme told USA TODAY Sports. “Obviously there’s something that was wrong with the system. And if this thing gets done, it will be remedied.”
Under the revised policy, a positive offseason test for a banned amphetamine, like Adderall or an amphetamine laced into a recreational drug like ecstasy or Molly, would be classified as a substance of abuse rather than a performance-enhancing drug and would not result in a suspension after a first offense. If the positive test occurred during the season, it would fall under the PED policy.
Cleveland Browns all-pro wide receiver Josh Gordon, presently banned for the entire 2014 season for repeated substance abuse violations, is expected to have his suspension reduced but not lifted completely. Gordon, who served a two-game drug-related suspension to start the 2013 season, was punished this year for a marijuana test that would fall below the new threshold of 35 ng/ml for a positive test.
Still, each case will be reviewed. And players currently suspended for issues related to alcohol or drunken driving or other personal conduct violations will not have their punishments altered.
In Denver, where Welker’s suspension stunned teammates last week, players were optimistic Friday that he would soon be rejoining them. They have not seen him since the morning of Sept. 3, when he was allowed inside the training facility to briefly speak with his teammates after the suspension was announced the night before. Several Broncos, including quarterback Peyton Manning and receiver Emmanuel Sanders, have kept in touch with Welker via text messages. Coach John Fox said he’s had no communication with Welker.
“We’re going to welcome him back. I know we’re excited, I know he’s excited,” Sanders told USA TODAY Sports on Friday prior to the union vote.
“I’m not curious about the policy, I’m just curious to get him back. I’ve been checking my Twitter, checking the internet, just waiting for them to say Wes Welker is back. That’s my brother, and to have him out the league for four games has hurt me just like it’s hurt him. To get him back, that would definitely be a plus for us.”
The Broncos have held a roster spot open since Tuesday and could seamlessly move Welker off the reserve list and onto the 53-man squad in time for Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Other teams would have to make a roster move before activating currently suspended players.
But being restored to the active roster is no guarantee that Welker would play Sunday. He has not participated in a full practice since Aug. 19. Afterward, he was excused to attend his appeal hearing and later suffered a concussion in a preseason game Aug. 23. The Broncos had hoped he’d be cleared for their Sept. 7 opener before the suspension was handed down.
“We’ll be as excited as can be, obviously, for him. I hope it does work out. But as far as this week’s game, I don’t know,” Tamme said.