First offense doesn't shield Marcell Dareus from possible four-game suspension - The Buffalo News

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First offense doesn't shield Marcell Dareus from possible four-game suspension

Marcell Dareus may have put the Buffalo Bills in a serious hole to start their crucial 2014 campaign.

With a new owner on the horizon and jobs on the line, Dareus could watch the first quarter of this season from his sofa.

The NFL can suspend the Pro Bowl defensive tackle four games for Monday night's arrest on felony charges of possessing a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia.

A source told The Buffalo News that Dareus had synthetic marijuana, a substance known for avoiding detection in drug tests.

There are two possible ways NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell could suspend Dareus under the league's substances-of-abuse and personal-conduct policies.

And it wouldn't matter that this is Dareus' first known offense.

From the substances-of-abuse policy:

"A player will normally be subject to discipline up to and including suspension without pay for four regular and/or postseason games for a first violation of the law related to substances of abuse other than alcohol and for six regular and/or postseason games for a second violation of the law related to substances of abuse other than alcohol."

Dareus won't necessarily avoid discipline if he's found not guilty or if he pleads to a lesser offense. Goodell has the ability to suspend players for making the NFL look bad.

From the NFL's personal-conduct policy:

"It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. Instead, as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard and expected to conduct yourself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the league is based and is lawful.

"Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in conviction of a crime."

Bills communications executive Scott Berchtold said late Tuesday night the team didn't know anything about Dareus' arrest aside from what had been reported in the media.

That's another potential problem for Dareus.

The NFL requires players to notify their teams about "any incident that may be a violation of this [personal-conduct] policy, and particularly when any conduct results in an arrest or other criminal charge. ... Failure to report an incident will constitute conduct detrimental and will be taken into consideration in making disciplinary determination."

There also is a chance Dareus could be subject to suspension if he's already in the NFL's intervention program.

While this is Dareus' first reported offense, this might not be the first time he was caught. If he has failed an NFL drug test or has a previous drug-related transgression that hasn't become public, then he would have been entered into the league's intervention program.

There are three stages to the intervention program. Stage One is triggered by a positive drug test, an arrest related to illegal drugs, physical and/or psychological behavior the program's medical director deems warranted or a self-referral. Stage One does not merit any type of suspension, but a player can be fined.

We usually don't discover a player's enrollment in the NFL's confidential intervention program unless he's suspended for additional violations while in Stage Two, as was the case last year, when the NFL suspended Denver Broncos pass-rusher Von Miller six games.

Players who enter the intervention program because of behavior, such as an arrest, can be excused from the program if the medical director determines the player doesn't require "specific clinical intervention." Those who enter the program because of a failed drug test advance to Stage Two regardless.

Stage Two involves as many as 10 unannounced drug tests a month. The player also must follow his treatment program.

Any violation or failure to comply can bring a four-game suspension without pay. A second violation or failure to comply in Stage Two can prompt a six-game suspension.

Violations in Stage Three mean banishment, with the ability to apply for reinstatement in a year.

The NFL has separate criteria for treatment and discipline for substances of abuse and alcohol.

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