Josh Gordon woes show NFL needs to do more for players with drug issues

Josh Gordon on the sidelines for the New England Patriots. Picture: Paul Sancya/AP
Josh Gordon on the sidelines for the New England Patriots. Picture: Paul Sancya/AP
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The ugly side of the NFL reared its head again in the last week when a troubled player once again found himself in the unenviable sights of the NFL commissioner’s office. Josh Gordon is no stranger to headlines and this time the Patriots wide receiver stepped in front of the media and announced he would be leaving the team to focus on his mental health.

Hours later the league announced that Gordon, pictured, would remain suspended indefinitely after violating the terms of his conditional reinstatement.

The wide receiver joined the Patriots in September after then he was traded by the Cleveland Browns as a result of “violating the teams trust”. Questions were asked about whether hard-line head coach Bill Belichick finally be able to get the 27-year-old on track and for 11 weeks it looked like that was the case.

The former Baylor University player played more games this year than the previous two, which he spent much of suspended after failing the NFL’s not too rigorous drugs policy. This will be the third time Gordon has been suspended since college - he also missed a year in college and then transferred to Utah after being suspended for failing a drugs test. This isn’t an isolated case if you look back and the league has a history of players repeating violations. These can be separated into “performance enhancing” or “substance abuse” and Gordon has repeatedly been suspended under the substance abuse policy.

The NFL needs to address the growing issue within the league and while they have stated that Gordon was in the league’s substance abuse program. But when you look at the programme, it doesn’t seem to offer much other than the often used phrase “If the Medical Director determines.”

It’s no wonder that the NFL has suspended more than seven players for second, third or fourth time offences. The current policy clearly isn’t working to support players that might have addiction issues or even as a deterrent.

The NFL needs to accept its role and step up and help these players. Speak to any addiction specialists, and they will tell you that addiction is often a method of self-medication relating to undiagnosed problems. The league needs to accept its role as and do the responsible thing for these players, it needs to do more to protect its players and to be quick to help and support these players in a real way. The NFL needs to create a policy that works and not one that has the appearance of assisting without ever doing so.