On July 31st, the New York Giants announced via Twitter that second-year safety Tyler Sash will be serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Through a statement released by the Giants, Sash said that he was taking prescription Adderall to treat an anxiety condition, and he wasn't aware that the drug was banned by the NFL. Sash was adamant in insisting that this positive test was in no way associated with performance-enhancing drugs.
This is a blow to the defending champion G-Men on many fronts. Let's go over just how much this affects the Giants, who are on their quest to become the first NFL team to successfully defend their title in seven seasons.
In his rookie season, Sash was something of a security blanket for the oft-injured Giants secondary. He appeared in every game for the Giants during the regular season, and he provided stability at the strong safety position.
Phillips—perhaps the most talented player in the Giants secondary—does have a serious knee injury in his history, which can't be overlooked.
Granted, Phillips has missed one game in two full seasons since recovering from the injury, but the knee was aggravated in last season's Week 12 loss to Green Bay. Phillips missed a week with a sprained MCL.
If Phillips (or any safety, for that matter) misses time in the season's first quarter, Sash's suspension will become that much more important for Big Blue.
Contrary to the typical "sophomore slump," looking back at Sash's stats from his years at Iowa, he saw his biggest statistical improvements from his freshman to sophomore years. This isn't to say that NCAA football to NFL football is a direct comparison, but this does speak volumes to Sash's work ethic.
Throughout his collegiate and professional career, Sash has been recognized as a hard-working, blue-collar player. This translates to improved, year-by-year, on-field results.
In his freshman season at Iowa, Sash logged 53 total tackles (28 solo, 2.5 for a loss) to go along with five interceptions. After a season of adjusting to the new level of competition, Sash racked up 85 total tackles (41 solo, 5.5 for a loss) and six interceptions.
It's a shame Sash won't be able to play out his full sophomore season in 2012.
Sash has worked his way up the ranks of the game with, according to DraftAce.com's scouting report, a "relative lack of athleticism."
This comes as a direct result of hard work, and Sash is one to lead by example.
Several reports, including those from DraftAce and CBS Sports (h/t Big Blue View), cite Sash as a positive locker-room voice.
Sash has been through the experience that is being a rookie in the NFL. His presence would undoubtedly help guide the development of this year's crop of Giants first-year players, regardless of position.
A winning NFL team cannot have enough of these voices around the team. The Giants will miss Sash's outlook through the first four weeks of the season.
On a more positive note, Sash's absence means other players have a chance to showcase their skills. Among those players are former Florida Gators defensive stopper Will Hill, and Stevie Brown, a 25-year-old out of Michigan.
It will be interesting to see how Hill, a New Jersey native, fairs in his first attempt at landing a spot on an NFL roster. He went undrafted in 2011 and spent time with the Arena League's Arizona Rattlers. In his last year at Florida, Hill totaled 54 tackles one forced fumble and two interceptions.
Stevie Brown is a former captain of the Michigan Wolverines. He's getting a look by the Giants this season after previous stops in Oakland, Carolina and Indianapolis. He's struggled to find playing time in NFL defensive backfields, but he showed stints of effectiveness during his time in Ann Arbor.
Brown spent time at linebacker and safety in Michigan from 2006-2009. In his four years in the Big Ten, he compiled a stat line of 186 tackles (9.5 for a loss), two sacks and four picks.
Other names that appear on the Giants depth chart at the safety positions are Chris Horton, JoJo Nicolas and Janzen Jackson.
Sash's suspension packs a blow on the field for the Giants, and his voice in the locker room will be missed. Every action has a reaction, however, as the Giants will see some benefit from the unfortunate positive test.
Head coach Tom Coughlin has publicly stated his dissatisfaction with the NFL's decision regarding Sash. Coughlin had this to say about commissioner Goodell's conclusion, via the AP:
This kid really had no intention of doing anything illegal. I know what the definition of the rule is and understand all about that and been there myself when you have had to ask yourself ... sometimes you think maybe common sense needs to be involved in this. He doesn't need any watchdog over him. Ignorance is not an excuse for the law, I understand. But if he knows what is expected, he does it.
High praise from Coughlin, who has always held his players to a high standard.
Events like these can destroy a team's chemistry or bring them closer together, and it looks like the latter is the case in Giants camp this summer. Look for Sash to be welcomed back with open arms following the team's Week 4 game at Philadelphia.