RICHMOND — The Washington Redskins will begin the season with two players on their defense, reserve linebacker Rob Jackson and would-be starting defensive end Jarvis Jenkins, serving four-game suspensions for violations of the NFL’s policy on banned performance-enhancing substances.
They have a third player, safety Tanard Jackson, serving an indefinite suspension by the league for violating the sport’s substance abuse policy.
It is part of a trend in which the Redskins have had eight players suspended without pay by the league since the beginning of the 2011 season for violating the NFL’s drug policies.
But several Redskins veterans said Saturday they hold the players, not the organization, accountable for the string of suspensions.
“Eight is a lot,” cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. “I didn’t know that. I wasn’t really paying attention. But I’ll tell you what, they’ll get it right. It’s their career at stake, their livelihood. They’ll wake up and smell the roses.”
Said linebacker London Fletcher: “It’s an unfortunate situation. Obviously one suspension is too many. I think the organization does a good job of letting us know what we can and can’t do, what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable. Guys have to take ownership and responsibility for their actions. You’re not going to be with somebody 24 hours a day, holding their hand.”
The list of players suspended over the last three seasons also includes left tackle Trent Williams, tight end Fred Davis, cornerback Phillip Buchanon, tackle Jordan Black and cornerback Cedric Griffin. Williams and Davis, like Tanard Jackson, were suspended under the substance abuse policy, which covers recreational drugs. Buchanon, Black, Griffin, Rob Jackson and Jenkins were suspended under the policy on banned performance-enhancing substances, which includes testing for steroids, possible masking agents and other performance enhancers.
The Redskins are not the only NFL team dealing with the issue. The Seattle Seahawks have had five players suspended for performance-enhancing drugs since 2011. A sixth Seahawks player, cornerback Richard Sherman, had a suspension overturned on appeal in December.
The league declined to comment through a spokesman on how the Redskins’ number of drug-related suspensions compare to those of other NFL teams.
The NFL’s drug policies are collectively bargained between the league and the players’ union. The league, not individual teams, is charged with overseeing drug testing, treatment and discipline.
But teams make decisions about which players to draft and sign, in the process weighing any risks associated with a player’s off-field behavior. Tanard Jackson had previously been suspended twice by the league for violations of the substance abuse policy when the Redskins signed him last year after he was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was suspended again last summer and didn’t play for the Redskins at all last season. His one-year contract with the Redskins rolled over into this season under league rules, and he is eligible for possible reinstatement late next month.
“Each individual situation is different,” Hall said. “I don’t really know each situation, so I can’t really comment on it as a whole. Just speaking in terms of being suspended for PEDs or whatever the case may be, it’s tough. It’s tough. Some could be knowingly knowing what they’re doing. Some could be going in the store, taking some vitamins and having a banned substance in it.”
When Jenkins’s suspension was announced Friday, he said he had tested positive for a banned substance contained in an over-the-counter supplement. The substance is on the sport’s banned list, Jenkins said, as a possible masking agent. Jenkins said he used a supplement that was not certified to be free of banned substances under the joint program administered by the league and union. He said he previously had used the supplement without any ramifications and he had been surprised to learn in late March of his possible violation of the drug policy.
Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said Friday “every situation is a little bit different.” Shanahan said the Redskins “have emphasized it but maybe not enough. Every year we’re trying to emphasize it better and better.”
Fletcher said the organization has not ignored the issue.
“It’s something that has been addressed,” Fletcher said. “I’m sure it’ll be addressed again, and moving forward guys have to continuously make good decisions.”
Hall said players must be more cognizant of the repercussions of their mistakes.
“It’s definitely hurting us not having guys out there that we need to help make plays. . . . You don’t want to see it happen that way,” Hall said. “If a guy gets hurt, there’s nothing you can do about it. If a guy gets suspended for taking something he’s not supposed to be taking, that’s a different situation, a different deal. . . . But the show must go on. If [quarterback Robert Griffin III] can’t go because he’s hurt, the show must go on. If a guy gets suspended because he’s taking something he’s not supposed to, the show must go on.”
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