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Why testing positive for marijuana is a big deal to teams

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Updated Oct. 06, 2010 @ 7:26 p.m.
By Eric Edholm

If we are to believe the report that Percy Harvin and Brandon Tate are among the players who tested positive for marijuana at the Combine, it will have sent up red flags to teams that would consider drafting them.

And I know some of you are asking, really: Why?

Florida WR Percy HarvinThere are some more liberal-minded folks out there who believe that testing positive for a recreational drug just isn't a big deal. And I might even side with you on the idea that smoking pot might not crack my top 10 of egregious offenses known to man.

But I will say it's no laughing matter to a lot of NFL folks, especially the ones who are in charge of making decisions to pay these players -- in some cases -- million-dollar contracts.

There are a few reasons why such a test would give them pause.

One is obvious. Marijuana, obviously, is illegal. Any person caught with it obviously would hear from the law, and even if they avoid serious legal issues, those players remain subject to the NFL's policies on substance abuse. As we have seen, this commissioner is not one of those players who views such things trivially.

But perhaps the more important issue that arises with a positive test is that teams view the player as -- pardon the 1970s-esque public-service term -- a dope.

They immediately question the maturity, intelligence and guidance of a player who knows months ahead of time that he'll be tested in Indy and yet still drops dirty. Players are so well-oiled for the draft process now that even the 15-minute interviews and Pro Day workouts are scripted and choreographed to the point of being semi-useless in the big draft picture. Agents and advisors spend more time getting their clients into Combine- and interview-ready condition, that the players end up looking and sounding like drones. And some teams don't even mind this.

That said, there are a few knuckleheads out there who know this, who hear this and who understand the potential consequences and who still fail a urine test. Are you kidding me? They have no excuses. I am not saying players should go take that magic goo you can buy for 20 bucks at a head shop, but I am saying the fact that they play around with recreational drugs at such a critical time wreaks of apathy. Some teams use the Wonderlic test scores as a measure of intelligence, but I think a positive test would as much of a sign of lack of intelligence as any other matrix available.

I don't know if that was what Harvin or Tate or any of the other players who reportedly tested positive were thinking. But if Was working for an NFL team, I absolutely would red-flag such an offense. It would suggest to me that the player just didn't give a rat's tail -- and that's not a player I would feel comfortable spending a first-round draft pick on. 

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