Excuses, Excuses: Le'Veon Bell, Others Need to Take NFL Drug Testing Seriously

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJuly 29, 2016

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 03: Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers watches the game from the sideline in the first quarter against the Carolina Panthers during the preseason game at Heinz Field on September 3, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Though Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell is facing a four-game suspension for missing a handful of drug tests, he has been adamant that he will win his appeal. 

Now we may know why.

Bell has told at least one Steelers teammate that the reason he missed his drug test was because he changed his phone number, according to a Steelers player.

The problem is, across the league, no one believes that excuse.

If that is the excuse, one team executive familiar with the league's drug policy stated, Bell's appeal will likely fail.

"If every player who missed a test could use that excuse," the team executive explained, "the drug policy would have no teeth. You might as well not have a drug policy."

Now, let's make a few things clear. We don't know for certain that this is the basis for Bell's appeal. This is what a Steelers player says Bell has told some on the team. Also, this news did not initially come directly from Bell, but was first reported by Stan Savran of 970 ESPN Radio in Pittsburgh. But my reporting is the first time I've heard a Steelers player discuss it.

Interestingly, though, that Steelers player who spoke with B/R also said the locker room is planning for Bell to be gone the first four games.

"None of the players are optimistic," the player explained.

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Bell may have a point, and could win his appeal. In fact, Bell posted a note on Instagram claiming he would win his appeal. But there isn't much faith across the NFL that he can.

The NFL's rules are explicit, and the union spells out these rules on its website: The responsibility of being tested is on the player. In other words, testers have to be able to contact the player, and hunting down phone numbers and addresses is not on the testers, but the players.

Also, the rules state that a suspension comes for missing a test only after three missed tests. The initial missed test results in a $25,000 fine. A second missed test leads to the loss of two game checks. A third missed test leads to a four-game suspension. So why did Bell miss those other tests, and why would what he says now be believable?

This leads to a larger point. There still seems to be some players that either don't get the drug testing rules, or don't care. It's likely the latter.

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 18:  Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers carries the ball against the Arizona Cardinals at Heinz Field on October 18, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The testing policies have their weaknesses, the main one being that the NFL tests for marijuana. This is just stupid, particularly when the NFL relies on painkilling medicines that cause massive addiction issues. These medicines have led to two massive lawsuits against football. It's some ugly stuff.

But this is where we are. A significant number of players, unbelievably, still don't understand that no matter their feelings about the tests, they're going to happen, and they'll determine whether someone plays or not. Bell showed he didn't get it months ago when he joked about his random drug test on 4/20. And the more players that react in the same way, the more will get busted.

Josh Gordon was the same way. He smoked weed. It's legal in multiple states. And it shouldn't be a big deal in the context of all the other drugs coursing through the league. But in the NFL, it's a tremendous deal, and it won't change any time soon. For the moment, that's just the way it is.

The Steelers player said that some guys in the locker room were "extremely disappointed" in both Bell and Martavis Bryant, who was suspended for the season after repeatedly missing NFL drug tests. The player emphasized that Bell has support from the entire organization but admitted "something isn't clicking" with Bell.

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 13:  Martavis Bryant #10 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates while walking off of the field after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals 33-20 at Paul Brown Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

When speaking to team executives who have dealt with players who have had failed or missed multiple tests, they wonder if this is only the beginning of a longer problem with Bell.

"The question moving forward with him," another team executive explained, "is what kind of impact will all of this have on him?"

That's another way of saying: does Bell get it?

Will he ever?

    

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @mikefreemanNFL.