Playing in the National Football League isn’t a right; it’s a privilege.
For those who abuse that privilege by not adhering to the rules, they’re not going to last very long.
That’s the hard lesson that safety Will Hill found out on Monday when the New York Giants waived him after three league-imposed suspensions totaling 14 games (four each in 2012 and 2013, and six in 2014) were marked against his record.
A Troubled Past
An undrafted free agent out of the University of Florida who had a world of talent at his disposal, Hill’s bumpy past can be traced back to his days in college.
Per NJ.com, Hill was suspended in his junior season for a violation of team rules alleged to have been related to marijuana possession.
Despite having a strong showing at the 2011 NFL Combine, character issues were said to be the reason why Hill went undrafted despite his talent.
After spending one season playing in the arena league for the Arizona Rattlers, the Giants took a chance on Hill, signing him to a low-risk free agent contract in 2012 that, per Over the Cap, had no signing bonus.
However, trouble soon began to follow Hill at this level. As a rookie in 2012, he violated the league’s policy on performance-enhancement substances for having allegedly consumed Adderall. That earned him his first four-game suspension.
In 2013, Hill was suspended again, also for four games, but this time for having violated the league’s policy on substance abuse.
That summer, Hill stood before the media and admitted to relying on marijuana to help him cope with the stress he faced in his life.
He also revealed that the Giants had provided him with a support network that included inpatient counseling at a Boston area treatment facility and then outpatient support at a Parsippany, New Jersey clinic.
Once Hill returned from his suspension, he seemed to be on the right path—until he was arrested on December 20 on a warrant for outstanding child support issues just before the Giants were to fly to Detroit to face the Lions.
To make matters worse, The Jersey Journal, citing the police report, said that officer on the scene detected the smell of marijuana and found cigar shavings in the vehicle in which Hill was riding as a passenger.
These findings, per the police report, suggested, "that marijuana was prepared and smoked in the vehicle."
In 2014, Hill again tested positive for an illegal substance, again alleged to be marijuana.
Last week, Jordan Raanan of NJ.com, reported that Hill based his appeal to overturn his third suspension, this one for six- games, on the fact that he inhaled second-hand smoke while at a club.
The Decision Heard ‘Round the NFL
The Giants’ decision to cut the troubled Hill comes as no surprise.
The team has done everything it can to provide Hill with a support structure as both an inpatient and as an outpatient.
What it can’t do, however, is force Hill to make the right choices when he’s away from the facility nor can it babysit him 24/7.
There comes a time when a guy needs to be held accountable for his actions. The three suspensions that have been handed down to Hill have made it hard to dispute that Hill is accountable when it comes to following the rules.
Regardless of how much smoke Hill may or may not have inhaled, there is also the matter of his decision to not only be present at an event where marijuana was being used, but to also remain there long enough to have allegedly inhaled enough smoke to trigger the positive test.
A player can have all the talent in the world, but if he’s not going to be there for large chunks of the season every season, as has been the case with Hill so far, that’s a problem.
Talent aside, when a player puts his needs above those of the team and refuses to set the right example for his teammates, head coach Tom Coughlin isn’t going to tolerate that—it doesn’t matter who the player is.
Where Do the Giants Go from Here?
There is no denying that Hill is a Pro Bowl talent whose presence alongside of Antrel Rolle, another Pro Bowl talent at safety, would have made the Giants’ defensive secondary one of the top ones in the league.
The handwriting, however, seemed to be on the wall for Hill last week as New York had Stevie Brown, who’s coming ACL surgery, taking the bulk of the reps with the starters and Hill taking most of his snaps with the second-string team.
Assuming Brown’s knee holds up, he appears to be in line to replace Hill in the starting lineup. His backup will probably be Quintin Demps. Meanwhile, Cooper Taylor and rookie draft pick Nat Berhe will compete to provide depth.
The Giants, who today received $5 million salary cap credit as a result of the David Baas transaction coming off the books, will also keep an eye on the waiver wire, especially as cuts are made during training camp later this summer.
As for Hill, whether you agree with the Giants decision or not, whether you are of the opinion that “it’s just weed,” the important thing is that Hill needs to get his life together before it’s too late to salvage his career.
As I noted above, playing in the NFL isn’t a right; it’s a privilege. There are thousands of young men far less talented than Hill that aspire to play in the NFL but who don’t’ get that chance for whatever the reason.
Hill can still have a productive career in the NFL. Before he learns another team’s playbook, he’ll first need to learn how to deal with his personal issues that have cost him a chance to reap the benefits and rewards that come with being in the NFL.