Raiders: Making Sense of the Martavis Bryant News

This offseason has provided Raider Nation with a multitude of subjects to talk about and many fans have experienced a myriad of emotions. One of the prized acquisitions for Oakland is wide receiver, Martavis Bryant. The Raiders acquired Bryant during the draft for a third-round pick received from the Cardinals by trading down from pick No. 10 to No. 15.

Bryant already has a long history in the league, even though it’s only been a few years. After flashing absurd playmaking ability in his rookie season, Bryant got himself into trouble by violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. His troubles continued and culminated when the NFL suspended him for the entire 2016 season. Coming into the 2017 season, Bryant wanted new scenery and a second chance. General manager Reggie McKenzie stepped in and gave him that opportunity. 

Since arriving in Oakland, Martavis has flashed his tremendous skill set while seemingly always flashing a giant grin.

However, the happy times turned dark. Michael Gelkhen of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the Raiders are concerned that Bryant may be suspended this season relating back to the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network shared a tweet to help shed light on the situation.

At this point, things are becoming convoluted and some background information regarding the NFL Substance Abuse Program is necessary. Once a player tests positive for an illegal substance, he is placed into the program for regular testing and treatment. Ideally, after a season of not missing tests and completing a mandatory 90-day treatment program, the player is then done with the treatment. If the player tests positive in that year, he is suspended. Provided that there is a third violation, a year suspension will occur and the player is permanently enrolled into the program for his entire career.

Due to his previous issues, Bryant is permanently enrolled in the NFL program and he must comply with regular testing and a treatment program. Here is where the potential issues may lie and why Rapoport mentioned paperwork. According to the NFLPA website and their official posting of the substance abuse policy guidelines, the NFL and NFLPA jointly select a Medical Director who is responsible for implementing the program. In order to implement the program, the director establishes regional teams of clinicians that assist the teams and players along with a regional psychiatrist. There is also a Substance Abuse Policy Administrator that helps make the program function from an operational standpoint.

As stated in the NFLPA website document, “The Medical Director and the Evaluating Clinicians will work together in a collaborative manner to facilitate, coordinate, monitor, and assess players’ compliance with their treatment plans.” It is at this point where we can see how a paperwork problem could develop. The Medical Director, in consultation with the regional teams,  must have selected the appropriate facilities to handle a player’s treatment, and the treating clinicians.  

If the implementation of a treatment plan is done based on regional teams, it must be developed in some respects for the player where they live. There is a logical chance when a player moves his treatment appointment it may not be fluidly reset and logistically moved in time. This makes the most sense as the root cause of the issues at hand. Had Bryant failed a drug test we wouldn’t have known until the league announced the suspension.

When considering all the possibilities for what may have happened regarding Martavis Bryant and this confusing situation, it seems as if it’s a logistical screw-up. If this is the case, then the NFL and Bryant will likely quickly work to get his plan back on track and regulated properly. Could he still end up being suspended for missing a test due to some sort of logistical mix-up? In theory, the player is ultimately responsible for his actions and what he puts in his body, but if the fault is in implementation, there is no way the NFLPA would not push for arbitration.

All in all, I do not think we see a suspension for Bryant.

Follow me on Twitter @holistic_pickle

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