Martavis Bryant is on his way back to the Pittsburgh Steelers after a year away from the team. Maybe. Hopefully. Whether or not that all transpires is still very much up in the air when you consider the steps left to be taken between applying for reinstatement and actually being reinstated.
Of course, the players who have gone through the indefinite suspension path and found themselves back in the league include Josh Gordon, Mike Vick, and Richie Incognito, the latter of whom is currently with David DeCastro and Ryan Shazier preparing to represent the AFC in the Pro Bowl.
So we do have examples of players being successfully reinstated after a year’s time. But Gordon’s case was the most similar to Bryant’s current situation, and that is not a positive sign. Roger Goodell delayed Gordon’s reinstatement and Gordon later went back into rehab. So he had issues on both ends. It’s not unreasonable to fear that Bryant might have similar issues if you are familiar with his suspension history.
Joe Rutter provided a sufficient breakdown of the steps Bryant will have to take in order to rejoin his teammates at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. His already-submitted application was required to have included a rundown of his history of treatment, abstinence from drugs, and any criminal history that he might have.
He will then undergo an interview session with a medical director and the league’s medical advisor to get a feel for where he is and provide a recommendation one way or the other to the commissioner about what step next to take. This is to take place within 45 days.
He is also obligated to release records pertaining to his medical and substance abuse history. This includes any sort of counseling or self-help groups that he may have participated in. He will be subject to periodic progress reports as well as an indeterminate number of urine tests over the course of his evaluation based on the evaluation of the medical advisor.
The totality of the process is supposed to be completed within 60 days. Goodell is to be able to be in a position to render a verdict as to Bryant’s reinstatement by that point. That appears not to have been the case in Gordon’s application process. Given that he seemingly relapsed, that probably should not be surprising.
The hardships do not end there provided that Bryant is actually reinstated. Once back in the league, he will be reinserted into the drug program at the Stage 3 level. That is the level at which Bryant was in 2015, the final step before an indefinite suspension.
Bryant could spend the rest of his career in Stage 3 if he is reinstated. That would provide that pretty much any slip-up may well end his career. The medical advisor can re-evaluate him in two years’ time and recommend dropping him to a lower stage. This all assumes that there are no changes made to the drug program protocol in that period of time.