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Can Suspended Cowboys’ La’el Collins Prove He’s Innocent?

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.

FRISCO - Reports of Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman La'el Collins registering an appeal of his five-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy seem to conveniently skip over some likely facts while ignoring some uncomfortable truths.

No, Cowboys Nation, I don’t raise this issues because I’m a “hater.” My dealings with Collins over the years have been pleasant. I respect him as a person and as a player and would love to report that he is innocent of any stumbles and that the NFL will soon see the errors of its evil ways and immediately reinstate the standout right tackle.

But to borrow from Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy’s infamous thought on another right tackle issue …

“That’s fantasy football nonsense.”

As I’ve pointed out previously, there are odd and gaping holes in the NFL’s ruling. Foremost: Amid all the fine-print bylaws in the CBA related to this behavior, why is “five-game suspension” never listed?

But that doesn’t make Collins innocent. Nor does it make all the claims issued to the media from “sources” (“sources” being Collins’ representatives) true.

Assume that there truly were a couple of extenuating circumstances that led to Collins missing drug-test appointments. (It’s alleged that he missed on the day Cowboys assistant coach Markus Paul died, and that he missed again to attend a relative’s funeral).

That’s two misses; it’s alleged Collins stacked up seven incidents related to testing. Indeed, while Collins’ side claims he missed seven tests, the NFL says it’s about seven “failure to comply” incidents.

What’s the difference? Why is one a greater offense than the other? That’s not clear.

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But it is fairly clear that Collins is in the substance program (which isn’t the NFL’s fault) and it’s clear he habitually has a testing problem (also not the NFL’s fault).

And it’s also clear that Collins fouled up on a series of other appointments.

“I didn’t screw up on seven - I only screwed up on five” does not constitute a very muscular defense.

Collins’ representatives have meanwhile leaked that La’el has “passed 180 drug tests in the last 18 months.” That would be the sort of evidence Collins lawyers should show us, and the sort of evidence the court of public opinion should demand to see - because claiming something that powerful, and frankly, that dubious, ought to come with proof.

The “180” would not officially trump the “seven.” But at least you’d know what to believe.

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Oh, and one more thing about these breathless “appeal” stories: given that many of these alleged offenses occurred a year ago, and given that the Cowboys organization was privately aware that punishment was coming, I think a “protest” of some sort has already been registered - and denied.

The NFL rules here are too gray and maybe too harsh and all-around not sound enough. But La’el Collins’ defense is basically that he’s guilty, but not that guilty as charged. And that’s not very sound, either.

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