Earlier this week, Washington Redskins offensive tackle Jordan Black was suspended for four games by the National Football League for violating the league's policy against performance-enhancing drugs. The suspension, which begins immediately, will keep Black out for the final two regular-season games of the 2012 season and two additional games, either in the 2012 postseason or at the start of the 2013 regular season.
From a football standpoint, losing Black hurts an offensive line that was dinged in Sunday's 38-21 win over the Cleveland Browns. Black, 32, hasn't played much this season, but was called upon to log 43 offensive snaps in place of Tyler Polumbus on Sunday, his first non-special teams action since Week 3. From a financial standpoint, the suspension will cost the 32-year-old offensive linemen $97,059 of his $825,000 base salary in 2012, as well as any playoff earnings and will hurt his market value should he decide to continue his playing career.
Black vehemently denies that his suspension has anything to do with steroids or performance-enhancing drugs and stems from a prescription from his doctor for a diagnosis that has been confirmed by doctors for the league.
"I gave the NFL the prescriptions that I received for it," Black told Doc Walker and Brian Mitchell on Inside the Locker Room on ESPN 980 (via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post's DC Sports Bog). "They’ve known about the diagnosis. They’ve had their own doctors confirm the diagnosis, multiple times. I’ve seen more doctors than you can even imagine about this very case that we are talking about. But in the appeals process, it just doesn’t matter.
"It is a system that, instead of having someone that can take a look at all the information and make a logical decision based on the information that’s there, they instead have an attack-dog attorney who tries to mis-characterize a person and put labels on them like a doper or whatever in order to find the player guilty. I mean, I had no chance from the beginning."
According to Steinberg, Black acknowledged facing a similar issue in 2011, but was not subject to the appeals process due to the lockout. The well-traveled Black, who has had stints with the Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars, had retired after having his contract terminated by the New Orleans Saints before the start of the 2011 season. According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Black had three workouts during the 2011 season, first with the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 10 before working out for the San Diego Chargers on Nov. 15 and Chicago Bears on Nov. 16, but no contract offers were made. Believing that his playing days were in his rear-view mirror, Black had shed 50 pounds before having to put it back on when he was coaxed out of retirement by the Redskins this summer.
While 50 pounds is a lot of weight to pack on in a short period of time, Black has mostly played in zone-blocking systems during his career, and thus has always been one of the lighter tackles in the league, valued more for his athleticism than any other attribute.
"Any time you hear the word performance-enhancing drug, there’s a stigma with that. So when people hear that, they automatically assume steroids," Black added. "I played against the Cleveland Browns at 275 pounds, at offensive tackle. Nothing about that scenario says I’m using performance-enhancing drugs. If anything, it shows that I’m clearly playing at a disadvantage."
Vacating a PEDs suspension after an appeal revealed a valid prescription is not unprecedented. It happened earlier this year with New York Giants running back Andre Brown, whose valid prescription for Adderall -- a common trigger/excuse for PEDs suspensions this season -- prompted the league to scrap his four-game suspension. Considering how long Black has been in the league, and has presumably played while taking this prescription with league approval, it is very curious that his season, and potentially career, will end on this note. With no other options than to call attention to the process, Black is going public in an attempt to clear his name.
"And I was like, 'How on earth does that resemble a justice system? How on earth is that fair?'. So I don’t know. I’m just now exploring my options, I guess, is what I’ll say. And I don’t know where it’s gonna lead me and I don’t know how this is gonna wind up, but at this point, my primary concern is just to let people know, don’t jump to conclusions, because they have no clue what’s going on. It’s definitely not a performance-enhancing issue."