Up in Smoke

Lombardi's Way Up in Smoke

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The Career Path of Darren Waller

By now you are well aware that Ravens tight end Darren Waller has been suspended for 1 year. Although neither the team nor the league will confirm, it is generally understood by sources close to the Ravens, that Waller’s suspension stems from flunking multiple drug tests. The abused substance is believed to be marijuana. And if Bet365 review had a prop bet on it, you’d get less than even money odds.

Waller’s affinity for weed dates back at the very least, to his college days. He was suspended in both 2013 and 2014 for violating team rules. He later admitted his two-game suspension in 2014 was tied to marijuana. It’s possible that Waller’s weed wackiness goes even deeper than that. After all his great-grandfather, Thomas “Fats” Waller recorded several marijuana-themed songs, including “Viper’s Drag” in 1934 and “The Reefer Song” in 1943.

Many of you, myself included, probably had the knee jerk reaction: “How can Waller be so stupid?” upon hearing the news. Seriously, how many 24-year old men have an opportunity to earn millions before they turn 30 and possibly establish a healthy financial future for the balance of their lives?

Not many.

Yet Waller didn’t seem interested – at least not interested enough. He was more interested in “Mary Jane”.

Coming out of Georgia Tech most analysts expected Waller to be a third or fourth round pick. Check out this description from NFL.com’s draft analyst Lance Zierlein:

“Uses long arms and gets on his ladder to sky over cornerbacks and high point throws. Effortless strider with untapped vertical speed to go yard. Plus, body control. Usually gets two feet in bounds on sideline throws. Plucks the ball with extended hands. Doesn’t fear hits from safeties. Almost impossible to guard on back-shoulder throws. Confident and competitive when the ball is in the air.”

Given this assessment and his 6’6”, 238-pound frame, it was only a lack of college production that kept analysts from projecting him as a possible second-round pick. Well, that and his dorm room peace pipe.

Darren Waller

Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun

Maybe Waller has a problem that requires help.

But Waller has been given many opportunities to cure his reefer madness. Apparently, he isn’t interested. You can’t help those who don’t want to help themselves.

Consider this…

NFL players are tested for recreational drugs once a year during a period mandated by the league’s collective bargaining agreement. Players know in advance that the testing can occur anytime between April 20 (that’s 4/20, proving that someone in the No Fun League has a sense of humor) and August 9, give or take.

The drug testing can be expensive so instead of summoning the doctors who administer the tests on multiple occasions, thus increasing the costs, the overwhelming majority of players are tested during training camp.

The players are well aware of this. Testing should come as no surprise to any player, particularly those using and trying to circumvent the system.

After players take the test and it comes up clean, they can’t be tested again until the next 4/20 date (or later). They can then fire up all the blunts they want until the next testing period.

But what if they test dirty?

A first-time offense lands the player in the substance abuse program without a suspension and into Stage 1. A player can then be tested anytime within the next 90 days. If he exits the 90-day period with clean tests, he’s back to square one and is treated as any other player who hasn’t flunked a drug test.

If he tests positive again, he receives a two-game fine. Each subsequent positive test is subject to more progressive penalties, but the bottom line is a player has to test positive four times before receiving his first suspension (4 games).

Here’s the way the system works…

1st failed test:

o Enter Stage One. Tested on set schedule for 90-day period. If clean, out of program.

2nd failed test:

o If positive, diluted or missed test, league Medical Director can issue three-week fine. Enter Stage Two. Tested on set schedule for 24 months.

• 3rd failed test:

o Tested randomly. If player successfully completed Stage One but has a new positive, diluted or missed test, four-week fine. If player did not successfully complete Stage One, four-week suspension. If this failed test is only for marijuana, player only fined two weeks’ worth of pay.

• 4th failed test:

o If previous violation was a fine, new violation results in four-week suspension. If previous violation was four-game suspension, new violation results in six-week suspension. Enter Stage Three. Tested randomly, up to 10 times a month.

o If a player makes it through 24 months of testing without a positive result or missed test, they then escape the system and return to once-a-year testing.

• 5th failed test:

o If first failed test in Stage Three is for marijuana, player is suspended for 10 games. If other drugs, player is banished from the league for one calendar year and will have to apply for reinstatement.

• 6th failed test:

o If player was suspended 10 games for marijuana, this failure results in a ban for one calendar year and will have to apply for reinstatement.

o If and when reinstated, a player returns to Stage Three, is tested up to 10 times a month and a new failed test will be an indefinite banishment.

So, from this we can conclude that either Waller has failed five tests and during the fifth he tested positive for something other than marijuana, or, he’s flunked six times. Either results in a 1-year suspension.

The “system” is akin to your teacher giving students the answers in advance to a multiple-choice test.

And yet Waller still failed…again and again and again.

He’s either stupid, doesn’t care, just along for the lucrative ride on his terms as long as it lasts, or all of the above.

Any way you slice it, the Ravens should simply slice all ties with Waller – forever.

He’s earned it!

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and CBS Sports 1300. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, Guinness, Orange Crushes and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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