- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 4, 2011


If tight end Fred Davis and left tackle Trent Williams were suspended solely for marijuana use during the lockout — when, technically, they weren’t NFL employees — outrage would be an appropriate reaction. How dare the league try to impose discipline on individuals it locked them out, telling them “thanks but no thanks” when they showed up for work?

However, the NFL players union cut a deal with the league that made actions during the lockout fair game. That doesn’t make sense, and Davis and Williams can blame union leadership for agreeing.

But they can blame themselves for a lack of discipline, commitment and self-control — even though they were locked out.

Davis and Williams reportedly failed two drug tests since the lockout ended, putting them in line for four-game suspensions that effectively will end their seasons. Reports indicate that each player has failed at least three tests since entering the league, Davis in 2008 and Williams last year.

Knowing they had prior offenses on their record, they should’ve refrained. The lockout wasn’t going to last forever, and the Redskins would be counting on them. They never should’ve risked a suspension — justified or not — which costs them money in the short-term (four game checks) and probably in the long run (their next contracts).

“Guys have to got to be accountable,” linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “We know the rules and whatever comes out, comes out. It’s a shame. These are two significant players on our team.”

On the other sideline Sunday at FedEx Field was New York Jets receiver Santonio Holmes, who can tell Davis and Williams the steep price he paid for a four-game drug suspension. He was traded from the Pittsburgh Steelers before the 2010 season.

Holmes, who caught the go-ahead touchdown in New York’s 34-19 victory, missed the first four games of that season and will face a yearlong suspension if he tests positive again.

Presumably, Davis and Williams are also eligible for one-year suspensions with the next failed drug test, a factor that will surely affect their negotiating power. With Davis entering free agency after the season, he couldn’t have picked a worse time to pick up the “druggie” label.

Tight ends have become increasingly potent weapons around the league, as three entered Week 13 among the NFL’s top 10 in receptions — New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham, New England’s Rob Gronkowski and Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez. Graham and Gronkowski ranked among the league’s top 10 in receiving yardage as well.

In his contract year, Davis was trying to establish himself as an elite tight end. The results were encouraging, too, as evidenced by Sunday’s six receptions for 99 yards. His combination of size and speed makes him a difficult cover for defensive backs and linebackers alike. He leads the Redskins in receptions and receiving yardage and is among the league’s top 10 at his position.

Williams won’t have to worry about his contract for another four years, but neither the Redskins nor potential suitors will forget about the drug suspension. He is slowly evolving into the type of left tackle stalwart the Redskins hope for when they drafted him with the No. 4 pick in 2010. But he’s added an unwanted asterisk to his resume that eventually could stunt his growth for an entire season.

Deciding to light up and risk damage to their careers would be one thing if Davis and Williams played an individual sport. But 51 teammates count on them each Sunday. Letting down those men might not hurt as much as missed paychecks, but it should hurt as much as not being on the field.

Even if Davis and Williams thought they had the perfect masking agent, indulging was a selfish act.

I don’t blame them for thinking it’s unfair to count usage during the lockout. I don’t blame them for wishing the union had fought against league discipline for acts that occurred in that span. I don’t even blame them for thinking much too much is made of marijuana use.

I just blame Davis and Williams for not thinking about the players and coaches who counted on them. That should’ve been enough to make them resist for four-and-a-half months while the labor agreement was hammered out.

Now the prospect of yearlong suspension is the hammer.

Hope the buzz was worth it.

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