It was obviously going to happen for anybody who ended up drafting him, but the Pittsburgh Steelers were supposedly among the teams willing to take the gamble, had they had the opportunity. But they were five picks too late to be the team to take the risk. That honor, instead, falls to the Cleveland Browns, who have a first-round pick in safety Jabrill Peppers who begins his career in Stage One of the league’s drug program.
Peppers, of course, told reporters after it came out that he had failed a drug test at the Combine in February for a diluted sample that it isn’t at all as it appears. The diluted sample was a product of overhydrating, because he fell ill on his way to Indianapolis. And, of course, he was going to be performing with multiple position groups, so he needed his energy.
It’s certainly a plausible explanation, but there is no way to verify it, and while the Browns took the chance on using the 25th-overall pick to select him, they are acknowledging the seriousness of the situation and they know that it is something that must be followed up with and monitored.
Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown talked about that recently while appearing on a radio program, acknowledging that “that’s a concern for us”, saying that “he understands it needs to be something that he’s accountable for and responsible for what he puts in his body and understands that piece of it”.
Entering the league in Stage One of the drug program is, of course, of concern regardless of whether or not he is actually a user of marijuana. He has already demonstrated that he can fail a drug test, so they have to be concerned with it happening again, whether it is from a diluted sample or otherwise.
“We did enough diligence at Michigan and through our process”, Brown said, “to understand who the young man was. We followed up to understand the sample and made the selection but Jabrill understands his NFL future, he’s going to put that at stake if he continues to put himself in that type of a situation”.
For his part, Peppers said during his introductory press conference that it was indeed a diluted sample, and that if that’s the worst anybody can say about him, then he will gladly “take that on the chin”.
Entering Stage One of the drug program is at least a 90-day commitment. If he does not fail another test in that timeframe, he could be removed from the program, but a medical director could also recommend additional time.
A second failed test while in Stage One would elevate him to Stage Two, which would open him up to a possible suspension should he fail an additional test after that. Of course, if he doesn’t actually use drugs, this isn’t likely to be an issue, but not even the Browns really know that for sure. Drugs are much more widely used, I would imagine, among NFL players than one might think.