A ton of NFL players are suspended to start the season -- here are the most important

Adam Schefter reported yesterday that Steelers’ WR Martavis Bryant will miss the first four games of the regular season due to a violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Bryant’s suspension is the latest in an off-season riddled with suspensions and controversy. According to Pro Football Talk’s Suspension Tracker, there are now 34 players who will miss at least one game of the regular season due to suspension.

You can look at this a two different ways. Thirty four suspended players works out to less than one per team. On the other hand, 34 players is entire team’s worth of offensive and defensive starters, plus eight bench players. In all, players have been suspended for a cumulative 159 games this season, per PFT.

That said, many of the players facing suspensions are either free agents or guys who weren’t going to see much time anyway. These suspensions — even if they won’t actually affect a team’s success over the course of the season — are still noteworthy in that they are indicative of the NFL’s increasingly hard-line approach toward its players’ actions, even those entirely unrelated to football.

In 2014, 39 players were suspended at the beginning of the regular season. With two weeks remaining until the start of the regular season, it’s possible that 2015 could match last year’s mark — the most in Goodell’s tenure as commissioner.

Here are the 10 most important players missing time, ranked by length of suspension:

Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns (16 games; substance abuse): Gordon has tested positive for marijuana on multiple occasions and will miss the entire regular season.

Dion Jordan, DE, Miami Dolphins (16 games; substance abuse): Miami selected Jordan with the third overall pick in 2013. He has tested positive for PEDs three times and will miss the entire season.

Jerome Simpson, WR, San Francisco 49ers (6 games; substance abuse): Simpson’s suspension is the fall-out of a 2014 arrest in which police found six pounds of marijuana in his home, which they claimed was a “marijuana distribution center.”

Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots (4 games; Deflategate): The NFL and NFLPA will meet again in court on August 31. If no settlement is made, the NFLPA will likely ask for an injunction to prevent Brady’s suspension from going into effect until after a judge has made a final decision.

Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers (4 games; substance abuse): The veteran tight end was suspended for PEDs he claimed he ingested accidentally.

Greg Hardy, DE, Dallas Cowboys (4 games; personal conduct): Hardy was arrested on charges of domestic violence in May 2014 when he was still on the Carolina Panthers.

Sheldon Richardson: DT, New York Jets (4 games; substance abuse): The 2013 defensive Rookie of the Year was already set to miss four games of the season for violating the substance abuse policy but could now be facing an increased suspension after being arrested for allegedly resisting arrest and speeding at up to 143 miles per hour in St. Louis before the start of training camp.

Rolando McClain, CB, Dallas Cowboys (4 games; substance abuse): Between McClain and Hardy, the Cowboys defence will be without two key pieces.

Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (4 games; substance abuse): Bryant tested positive for marijuana but will appeal the suspension, Adam Schefter reported.

Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburg Steelers (2 games; substance abuse): Bell’s suspension for marijuana use was reduced from 3 games to 2.

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