The Buffalo Bills on Friday officially announced that offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson has been suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the season for violating its substance-abuse policy.
Kickoff specialist Jordan Gay, who had been released and placed on the Bills’ practice squad, was activated to at least fill the first of the four-game roster vacancy, Sunday’s season-opener at Baltimore.
That likely means the team plans to use Gay’s strong leg to kick the ball through the end zone to prevent returns by Devin Hester, who has long been one of the more dangerous returners in the league.
Multiple media outlets reported Henderson’s suspension on Wednesday, but neither the NFL nor the Bills would comment until Friday.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Henderson’s agent, Brian Fettner, said his client dropped his plans for an appeal of the suspension on the basis that he was using cannabis for the treatment of Crohn’s disease, with which he was diagnosed late last season.
“Merciful or not, there is no medical exception that the NFL will accept,” Fettner told Schefter. “It doesn’t matter that Seantrel is battling Crohn’s disease, and has had his intestines outside his body. It doesn’t matter how you take it, if you digest the cannabis, that’s it. And they don’t care. So you can appeal and lose, and push it back, or you can get it over with. Per the negotiated letter of law, it seems like a futile appeal. We don’t want to waste anyone’s time. We want Seantrel back as soon as possible.”
The Bills issued a news release that included the following statement from the league:
“Seantrel Henderson of the Buffalo Bills has been suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2016 regular season for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.
“Henderson’s suspension begins immediately. He will be eligible to return to the Bills’ active roster on Monday, October 3 following the team’s October 2 game against the New England Patriots.”
Gay said he felt “blessed” with the opportunity to stick around on a team that also is carrying placekicker Dan Carpenter, making the Bills the only team to carry a kickoff specialist.
“Basically, just pick up where we left off last year,” Gay said. “You never know what (the Ravens) are going to do, what they’re going to tell Hester to do, depending on how deep (the kickoff) is. Because since the touchback’s now the 25, they might tell him to take a knee if it’s like 5 yards deep.
“But I think, with me, the theory is just for me to kind of hit my normal ball, which is high and hopefully out of the back of the end zone. But if it’s not, I’ll make him really think about whether he wants to bring it back or not.”
Eric Wood confirmed a report by ESPN’s Field Yates that the Bills’ center has agreed to a restructuring of his contract.
According to Yates, Wood converted $3.775 million of his $4.775 million base salary for the 2016 season into a bonus. That opens up roughly $2.5 million in salary cap space this year. The Bills also added a voidable year, in 2018, to Wood’s contract.
Additionally, Yates reported that the Bills extended the contract of reserve center Patrick Lewis, who was claimed off waivers from Seattle, through 2017. His original 2016 salary of $1.671 million was reduced to $800,000 (on top of a $200,000 signing bonus). In 2017, Lewis is due to receive a non-guaranteed base salary of $1.2 million.
Running back Jonathan Williams (ribs) is listed as questionable for Sunday, along with guard Ryan Groy (ribs) and quarterback Cardale Jones (right shoulder).
Cornerback Kevon Seymour (hamstring) and safety Colt Anderson (foot) are listed as out.
The Ravens list outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot), running back Kenneth Dixon (knee) and cornerback Jerraud Powers (ankle) as out.
Tight ends Dennis Pitta (finger) and Maxx Williams (knee), offensive lineman John Urschel (shoulder), and cornerback Shareece Wright (foot) are questionable.