In all sports, suspensions seem to happen far too often. Commissioners of all the major sports leagues want to clean up their games after the famous “Steroid Era” of the 1990s. Since then, rules on performance enhancers and other topics have drawn major suspensions. In the NFL, it seems that more and more, players are being suspended every year for different violations. Unfortunately for some NFL teams, the suspensions could possibly cost their teams some games. In this pass happy league, the focus has been on the offensive side of the ball. In this upcoming season, the league will be without three of its offensive stars due to suspension. Let’s take a look at some of the big names on offense and how their suspensions may affect their teams.
In the most recent of the NFL suspensions, Broncos receiver Wes Welker was suspended four games by the league for violating the substance abuse policy. Pro Football Talk reported that Welker took a banned narcotic laced with amphetamines called MDMA, commonly known as “Molly,” while attending the Kentucky Derby.
Well, that would explain why Welker walked around handing out $100 bills to people at Churchill Downs. Welker denied the allegations, but if you take a look at this picture, Welker obviously looks a little out of it. It could just be that he had a little too much to drink, but his drug test said otherwise.
Although the league handed Welker a four game suspension, the Broncos weren’t even sure that he would be available to play for them. In a preseason game against the Houston Texans, Welker took a hit from safety D.J. Swearinger that gave him his third concussion in 10 months. From that point, the team wasn’t even positive they would have him for the first game or two. Regardless, the team won’t have their slot-man extraordinaire for the first four games of the season. I
n most cases, losing a guy who caught 10 touchdowns a year ago and has put up 5 seasons of 100-plus catches would be devastating. Fortunately, the Broncos have a guy you may have heard of at quarterback named Peyton Manning. In addition, they have some guys who are pretty good in their own right. Demaryius Thomas has had at least 90 catches and 1,400 yards each of the last two seasons, and Julius Thomas celebrated a career year last year that elevated him to the upper-echelon of NFL tight ends. Those two guys were always going to be “the guys” in the passing game, but Welker was a solid receiver in the intermediate passing game that gave Peyton a great security blanket.
Outside of the Thomases, the team has Emmanuel Sanders, who they signed away from Pittsburgh to replace Eric Decker. They’ll look to him as another big play guy in their offense. Other than Sanders, the team drafted Cody Latimer in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft out of Indiana University. With the Welker suspension, he will see his playing time increase a bit. The team is still going to put points on the board without Welker. As long as Manning is running the offense in Denver, this team is going to win. Obviously, Welker is a great player and losing him will affect his team, but they are still going to be very, very good and will only get better when he returns.
(Editor’s Note: This was written prior to the release of the video that shows Ray Rice’s domestic violence in the elevator, his release from the Ravens and his subsequent indefinite suspension. I have not changed the author’s ideas, but please read knowing the timing of this.)
In one of the more disgraceful acts you’ll see, Ravens running back Ray Rice was caught on camera assaulting his future wife and dragging her out of an elevator unconscious. Obviously, this video caused Rice and the NFL a ton of problems. It could be because Rice had a very poor season last year, and now fans seeing this just makes his case worse. Or it could be that the NFL only suspended him for two games, and that caused people to wonder how Roger Goodell could justify such a light sentence for domestic assault but suspend Josh Gordon for a year for smoking the reefer a few times and getting caught. Although Gordon has been in trouble before for his cannabis use, some think that the severity of the offense should equal a suspension that was at least as long as Gordon’s.
Rice and the Baltimore Ravens should consider themselves lucky that the league didn’t enforce their new domestic violence penalties on Rice. The new rules state that a first time offense will result in a suspension of six games, and the second offense a lifetime ban. The league decided to uphold Rice’s suspension, so the team will be without their star rusher for the first two games of the season. Last year, Rice had a very bad season. He’s been a Pro Bowler and the focal point of the Ravens offense in the past, whether it’s in the run or pass game.
In 2013, Rice had only 660 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns; way down from his previous season of 1,143 yards and 9 touchdowns. His yards per carry average was awful at 3.1, and overall he just struggled to get things going. Although he did have a bad year, Rice has been a top-10 back in the league and a reliable player within the Ravens offense.
In his absence, the Ravens will rely on third-year Temple product Bernard Pierce to handle the load. While Pierce had a very promising rookie season, his sophomore campaign left little to be desired, as he rushed for 436 yards on an average of 2.9 yards per carry. That’s not very good. Although the offensive line struggled for both backs most of last season, it’s not unreasonable to expect two tailbacks with their talent to be better than that.
In Rice’s absence, I think Bernard Pierce can play pretty well. He will get a good amount of carries, as he will be their only reliable back. He suffered a concussion in the preseason, but he seems to be recovered from that after passing all the exams. The Ravens also have a solid quarterback in Joe Flacco and receivers he can get the ball to. Torrey Smith will be back, as well as tight end Dennis Pitta. Second year receiver Marlon Brown will have a full year of NFL experience under his belt as well after a promising rookie season. The signing of Steve Smith also adds another weapon to this offense. As a whole, the Ravens offense will get by with the guys they have.
When he’s on the field, Cleveland Browns wide-out Josh Gordon is one of the best in the league. He has the combination of size and speed that is just breathtaking to watch. He even made me look like a genius for drafting him in the last round of my fantasy draft a season ago. Despite all of the things he’s capable of doing on a football field, his marijuana use has kept him from fully showcasing all that talent. His use of pot dates back to his days at Baylor University, when he was first suspended after police found him passed out in a car parked in a Taco Bell (I assume he had the munchies at some point). Police found marijuana in the car and arrested him, which led to his first suspension.
In his most recent suspension, Gordon was handed a year-long suspension, which he appealed. The NFL decided to uphold their ruling, and Gordon is now officially done for the year. Obviously, if he didn’t have a history of drug use, his suspension wouldn’t have been as stiff. Regardless, the Browns will be without their best player and it is a huge loss.
With Gordon in the lineup, the offense looks completely different. Gordon is the go-to option in the passing game, and gives talented tight end Jordan Cameron the chance to work over the middle. Without Gordon on the field, there isn’t another reliable target to throw to, and defenses can blanket Cameron. However, the team has a few new additions that will help, such as Andrew Hawkins, Ben Tate, and that quarterback by the name of Jonathan Football. If Gordon is on the field, this is an interesting offense that has some potential to be very good, but losing their primary option moves them a few steps back. Because of his absence, the Browns are going to struggle on offense.