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Trent Williams’ case highlights failure to reintegrate players into drug program

Trent Williams

Washington Redskins offensive lineman Trent Williams watches a drill during the NFL football team’s training camp practice on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)


When the lockout commenced on March 11, all players in the substance-abuse program were released from the unannounced testing obligations -- and likewise prevented from having access to the treatment and counseling available to players who have tested positive in the recent past.

Then, when the lockout ended, the players immediately were subjected to testing again, without any period of reintegration.

As a result, 11 players who already were in the program tested positive in the days after the new labor agreement became effective. And Redskins tackle Trent Williams continued to test positive once the season began.

Per multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, Williams tested positive 10 times in September and October.

Yes, 10 times.

Neither Williams nor any of the other 10 players had tested positive from their entry into the program through the start of the lockout. So the program was working.

The fact that Williams tested positive 10 times doesn’t mean that he ingested a banned recreational substance on 10 occasions. If, as others have reported, Williams tested positive for marijuana, the same smoking incident could continue to generate the presence of marijuana metabolites for up to a month. As a result, the 10 positive tests from September and October were treated as one violation of the program.

Though it’s impossible to know whether Williams would have remained clean if he and the other 10 players had been reintegrated into the program over a period of time, it’s now clear in hindsight that both the NFL and the NFLPA should have done a better job (or, really, any job) of taking into account the interests of players who had been benefiting from treatment before being cut loose as of March 11, and then abruptly being expected to comply again as of early August.