There are some blurred lines in the new CBA rules related to the NFL's substance-abuse policy, and La'el Collins clearly believes he's been victimized by the blur.
Collins, the Dallas Cowboys' starting right tackle, was handed a five-game suspension by the NFL at the end of last week. His plan, with guidance from agent Peter Schaffer, is to push for an appeal based on four key points:
1) The rules, as they relate to "missed drug tests,'' call only for fines and not suspensions.
2) The rules do call for a suspension if a player "fails to cooperate with tester,'' seemingly meaning he does show up - and then somehow does not comply with what the tester is asking of him. But per some reports, Collins has been cited seven times for "failure to appear" for testing - not for "failure to cooperate.''
3) The "failure to cooperate'' rules list the punishments as one-, two- and three-weeks' salary for, respectively, one, two and three violations. After that comes a three-game suspension (for four violations), a four-game suspension (for five violations), an eight-game suspension (for six violations) and then, for a seventh violation, "banishment for an indefinite period of at least one calendar year.''
4) Collins is contending that some of the testing dates that Collins missed came on days when the Cowboys had sent players home due to a COVID-related situation, and that there were therefore mitigating circumstances.
Blurred lines. And more questions than answers. For instance:
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Collins’ representatives have leaked that La’el has “passed 180 drug tests in the last 18 months.” That would be the sort of evidence his lawyers should show the world.
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“Whether I'm rushing the quarterback or stuffing the run,” Micah says, “what I want to do, is be as dominant as possible."
If Collins only "missed tests,'' why is he suspended?
Why has the league (and the NFLPA) decided that a "failure to cooperate'' (presumably once a player shows up) is worse than not showing up at all?
If it is true that Collins "has been tested roughly 10 times a month over the past 18 months, and, according to sources, has not tested positive for marijuana once between Oct. 21, 2020 and Aug. 11, 2021'' ... isn't that "clean enough''?
And the most confounding question: How did the NFL decide on a five-game suspension when there is literally no mention of a "five-game suspension'' on the punishment menu?
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There is simply no language in the new substance-abuse policy that says seven failures to appear or seven failures to cooperate equate to suspension. Of course, there is also the "Be Careful What You Wish For'' component, because the rules do call for a one-year suspension for seven "failures to cooperate.''
The Cowboys, Collins and the NFL can get to the bottom of that as soon as those involved settle the argument about the difference between "not showing up'' and "not cooperating'' - and how to judge if there are "mitigating circumstances'' involved in either.