Playing defensive back in the NFL has never been harder. They barely can touch a wide receiver past the line of scrimmage. They must master physics while delivering hits over the middle. They must stay in coverage longer and longer against pass-happy offenses and quarterback-friendly rules.
When it comes to needing a boost, it’s no wonder if members of the secondary are second to none.
You might notice that a slew of players this season have been suspended for, reportedly, Adderall, a stimulant placed on the NFL’s banned-substance list in 2006. You might hear that the medication is widely prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. You might know that the latest player linked to the drug is Cedric Griffin of the Washington Redskins.
You might say that figures; Griffin is a cornerback.
Of at least 11 players who have been linked to Adderall or publicly blamed the substance for a failed drug test this season, eight play in the defensive backfield. Six play cornerback — the game’s loneliest position — including Seattle Seahawks starters Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman.
Apparently, chasing the likes of Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Demaryius Thomas can be a real downer.
Dr. Eric Morse, a sports psychiatrist in Raleigh, N.C., understands if Adderall has become prevalent along the last line of defense. “You have to maintain different levels of attention in the secondary,” Morse told CBSNews.com. “You have to watch the quarterback and the wide receiver that you’re guarding.” For Washington, losing this Griffin beats the heck out of losing the one with III in his name. But the absence definitely will hurt. Griffin missed three games with a strained hamstring earlier this season and the DBs were roasted in two of them, yielding 385 passing yards to Cincinnati and 338 to Atlanta. Only Dallas (423) has passed for more against Washington this year.
Griffin received a four-game suspension, reportedly costing him nearly $300,000, and is ineligible to return this season unless the Redskins advance to the playoffs. Tampa Bay cornerback Eric Wright’s four-game suspension reportedly cost him $1.7 million. That’s a whole lot of money for a substance with debatable performance-enhancing benefits.
Then again, if you had to run stride for stride with Andre Johnson or Wes Welker, you might take any help available, even the placebo effect. Marshall, the Bears’ star wideout, recently told reporters that he’s heard of players using Viagra for a perceived edge (something about increasing blood flow as long as it doesn’t go you-know-where).
At least one DB on the suspended had a valid excuse and a prescription. New York Giants safety Tyler Sash told The Star-Ledger of Newark that he took Adderall in March to combat his nerves before delivering a speech in his hometown. His appeal was denied. So was the appeal by fellow Giants safety Will Hill, who in a statement claimed that he had a prescription, too, and took the substance without knowing it was banned.
But another Giants player — attention deficits and New York must go hand in hand — won his appeal, in addition to a prized “Therapeutic Use Exemption” that allows the use of banned substances. Doctors have prescribed Adderall to treat ADHD in halfback Andre Brown since he was in high school.
The league won’t accept any old doctor’s prescription in granting a TUE, though. According to NFL/NFL Players Association policies, a formal evaluation is required by a psychiatrist and other doctors who specialize in ADD/ADHD, or a knowledgeable doctor working with a psychologist in the ADD/ADHD field.
The exemption clouds the issue. It’s OK to get a boost in focusing if you have trouble focusing, but not if you just want to focus better?
Anyway, Adderall might not be the culprit as often as players claim. The NFL doesn’t rectify players who blame their failed test on, say, Adderall, when it really was due to, say, steroids.
“Honestly, I think Adderall is an excuse,” former Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder told FoxSports.com. “Now, if you get busted, you just say it’s Adderall and it goes under the rug. The league can’t come out and correct you.”
Adderall is viewed much less harsher than steroids or human growth hormone. Lots of children have grown up with legitimate prescriptions for Adderall, while college children use it illicitly to party or study all night. So maybe it helps players digest their voluminous playbooks and remain mentally sharp. A couple of cans of Red Bull can do likewise.
But Crowder knows one position group clearly has the potential to abuse Adderall. “I played six years with a struggling team, and I must have had 400 different teammates,” he said. Only one of them needed to be on Adderall.
“If you are a cornerback in the NFL and you have to cover Andre Johnson, wouldn’t you want something that will keep you focused and calm you down?”