It certainly came as a surprise to most, including seemingly La’el Collins and his agent. The NFL handed down a five-game suspension to Collins on Friday and while the fanbase wasn’t happy, no one seems to be more unhappy than Collins’ agent, Peter Shaffer, He has railed against the process and plans to continue the fight on Collins’ behalf by pushing for a further appeal of the suspension.
Collins was suspended for missing drug tests, which we now know numbered seven misses. The issue for Collins’ agent, Shaffer, seems to be two-fold. It’s whether the missed drug tests that he was suspended for constitute a rightful suspension, and whether mitigating circumstances around the tests should have been taken into consideration.
Collins has been tested roughly 10 times a month over the past 18 months, and, according to sources, has not tested positive for marijuana once between Oct. 21, 2020 and Aug. 11, 2021. However, Collins has been cited seven times for “failure to appear” for testing, although often with mitigating circumstances, according to sources.
The NFL, in its decision to suspend Collins, came to the conclusion that those seven failures constituted grounds for a suspension, with Schaffer now challenging that in further appeal. On some occasions, the testing dates that Collins missed were on days when the Cowboys had sent players home due to a COVID-related situation, and there were mitigating circumstances.
As of now, Collins and the Cowboys have to operate under the assumption that he will not be available for the next five games, pending any decisions made on this new appeal that is being crafted. There does not appear to be any language in the new substance-abuse policy that stipulates seven failures to appeal equates specifically to “failure to cooperate,” which the agreement includes as grounds for suspension.
Off the bat, it seems unlikely that the NFL will change it’s mind here, they rarely do in such matters. Goodell has broad powers as commissioner and if they determine they have the grounds to suspend someone they rarely reverse such a decision. It would chip away at their power over players.
The other issue seems like a failure of multiple parties. From Collins’ side of things, if he was missing drug tests that were scheduled because of mitigating circumstances, why wasn’t that noted with the NFL offices and a plan to make sure it didn’t negatively affect him be put in place? If these were tests that were unscheduled and not known to the player, it should be incumbent on the NFL to find out why a player wasn’t at the facility for an unscheduled test.
This whole situation seems entirely avoidable from both parties. You would think that if the system was truly about keeping out players that fail drug tests, that after a few missed tests, either Collins and his agent, or the NFL itself, would raise the issue before it got to a potential suspension area. Everything here seems entirely avoidable and it makes no sense it got to this point, unless Collins was actively missing tests on his own accord. If that is the case, then the suspension is legitimate. Otherwise, the system seems broke.