Friday, May 16, 2014

Quick Hits: Volume XCIV

-If a player violates the NFL ban on performance-enhancing substances, they are suspended four games without pay. Oftentimes the offending player has, in his mind, a legitimate reason why he ingested banned substances. I don't know that a player's story is so much an attempt to wiggle out of the suspension as much as it is to preserve some integrity.

I surmise it's the latter in the case of Indianapolis Colts LB Robert Mathis.

The Colts' career sacks leader was suspended Friday by the NFL after violating the league's ban on performance-enhancing substances. The linebacker said in a statement he was seeking fertility assistance. He acknowledged that he and his wife are expecting a baby.

Mathis will be eligible to return to the Colts' active roster on Monday, Sept. 29, following the team's Sept. 28 game against the Tennessee Titans.

Mathis released a statement Friday detailing his explanation for the positive test:

"It is difficult for me to address the circumstances surrounding this suspension because they involve very personal medical information, but it is very important to me that my fans, particularly young people, understand what did and did not occur. Like many families, my wife and I faced fertility challenges, and I sought medical assistance. I specifically asked the doctor if the medication he prescribed for me would present a problem for NFL drug testing, and unfortunately, he incorrectly told me that it would not. I made the mistake of not calling the NFL or NFLPA to double-check before I took the medication at the end of last season.

"The union has worked very closely with me to present all of the facts and medical records for consideration of discipline that does not include a suspension because of the unique facts of my case, but the commissioner refused the request. I am deeply saddened that this situation will prevent me from contributing to my team for four games, and I regret that I didn't cross-check what my doctor told me before I took the medication. I hope that my fans will understand the unique circumstances involved here and continue to know that I am a man of integrity who would never intentionally circumvent the performance-enhancing substance policy agreed to by the NFL and my union.

"The incredible blessing of this very upsetting situation is that, after I took the medication very briefly at the end of last season, we learned that my wife is expecting a baby. We are thrilled that we will be welcoming a new member in several months, but I apologize to my teammates, coaches and Colts fans that I will not be able to contribute to my team for the first four weeks of the 2014 season. I will work extremely hard during that time to stay in top football shape and will be prepared to contribute immediately upon my return."

I admit to having some sympathy for Mathis's plight. But where he erred was in not consulting Colts team physicians, NFL officials, etc. While his personal doctor supposedly reassured him that his fertility medication did not include any banned ingredients, Mathis and/or his management team failed in their due diligence. A private physician typically is not intimately familiar with the myriad substances banned by the NFL, so the burden should not be laid at the doctor's feet.

The bottom line is a player is ultimately responsible for what he puts into his body, regardless of the nobility of his reasons. I just feel for Mathis having to convey a deeply personal medical issue to assure everyone he wasn't trying to gain an extra advantage illegally.

-So the current Minnesota legislative session is about to come to a close (and there was much rejoicing). But until it does, you won't hear a peep out of the state's chief executive.

Is that to prevent him from licking the incision from his hip surgery?

Oh, wait. That's the cone of shame. 

My bad. Carry on.

- More news from perhaps the most noteworthy 7th round draft pick in NFL history.

The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) and Michael Sam's representation announced Friday night that the documentary series that was set to feature the first openly gay NFL player has been postponed.

"After careful consideration and discussion with the St. Louis Rams, 'The Untitled Michael Sam Project' has been postponed, allowing Michael the best opportunity to achieve his dreams of making the team," OWN president Erik Logan said in a statement. "OWN is about elevating and empowering people to achieve their best. It's clear that we, along with the world, recognize the opportunity that Michael has in this moment. We will continue to support him in his journey to earn a spot playing for the Rams."

From the time he announced to the world three months ago that he is a homosexual, Sam has emphasized he wants to be known as Michael Sam the football player as opposed to Michael Sam the gay football player. Well if that's the case, then why would his camp even consider a television project? After all, football players who are drafted merely eight picks before the final overall choice barely make news within the home city of the team that selected them, much less worldwide notoriety.

Someone said recently that Sam should eschew all media requests, appearances, etc. and focus 100% on making the Rams' roster. That would be pretty much be the M.O. of any other football player drafted in the later rounds.


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