Marcell Dareus had his first press conference with the Buffalo media since his return from a four-game NFL drug suspension on Wednesday. Within the first five minutes, Dareus used the expression “to be honest” five times.
When you’re a hardened skeptic, that’s when the sirens start going off in your head. If an athlete or politician has to keep reminding you that he’s being honest, it’s a sure sign that he’s hiding something and has been coached in his responses, which was almost surely the case with Dareus.
Dareus, the Bills’ prodigal, $100 million defensive tackle, returned from NFL limbo, magically transformed into a sympathetic figure by a well-timed USA Today profile in which he revealed that he is being treated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, more commonly known as ADHD.
The last we heard from Dareus, in mid-August, he announced he was checking into a rehab center after the NFL suspended him for the first four games for violating the substance abuse policy. Dareus said he had missed a drug test, when he had tested positive for marijuana for at least the fourth time.
Now, we’re supposed to believe that habitual pot smoking isn’t the real problem, but Dareus’ inability to control his impulses and pay attention to the rules.
Dareus does have a history of impulsive bad behavior, which is consistent with ADHD. He was suspended for the first quarter of a game late in the 2013 season for being late. The next day, he was late again and was suspended by Doug Marrone for the first half of the season finale. Luckily, he ran out of games.
In 2014, he was arrested by Alabama police and charged with possession of synthetic marijuana. A month later at minicamp, he made a public vow to stay out of trouble. Two days later, he crashed his car into a tree in Orchard Park while street racing.
On the same day that he and the Bills announced his imaginary rehabilitation stay to the public, Dareus left a preseason game early and was photographed on Chippewa Street, presumably doing some last-minute clubbing.
Dareus said he “saw some issues” with himself and decided to seek help. Good to see him being honest with himself. He sought the help of a psychiatrist for his ADHD, hired a life coach and even hired ex-Bills great Bruce Smith, a paragon of virtuous off-field behavior during his playing days, for guidance.
“To be honest, we’re just following a positive course of action,” Dareus said. “I wanted to seek out some professionals to help me with my every-day situations I have to deal with. From there, looking to move past and kind of continue my ongoing help and help me with my decision-making, to be honest.”
Nice bit of symmetry, framing the quote in two “to be honests.” Well, Dareus enlisted the help of an outside PR specialist, Buffalo native Kelly Swanson. Swanson is an expert at buffing the tarnished images of sketchy pro boxers, most notably that notorious wife beater, Floyd Mayweather.
I don’t mean to insult people who suffer from ADHD. I understand that it’s a serious disease that has been diagnosed – and overdiagnosed, according to some experts in the field – in millions of Americans, mostly children.
But I’m just not buying in this case. Dareus said he was diagnosed with ADHD in college at Alabama, which he never disclosed before. It seems awfully convenient to hide behind it now, a little spin to soften the blow of his chronic pot smoking and make him look like a sympathetic figure to Bills fans.
Dareus kept talking about “moving past” his problems. He used that classic athletes line about things “being in the past,” as if it were that easy. Would it have been so hard to answer simple questions about ADHD? He wouldn’t even talk about his recent workout regimen, as if it were some state secret.
“I’m just happy with what I did over the four weeks,” He said. “I was really proactive to better myself, to be honest. Just did exactly what I wanted to do and I’m happy with what I’ve done and I’m happy for the future. I’m really optimistic about the future.”
One thing that’s clear is Dareus likes smoking marijuana. That doesn’t make him a bad person, just dumb enough to get caught. Two years ago, he told me he understood the need to abide by the NFL’s drug rules, however harsh.
“But to punish somebody and belittle them because of what they do off the field to relax themselves?” he said. “There’s a pounding lifestyle we have. It shortens our life, and the stress that comes with it can be unbearable. At the same time, this is the path we chose as athletes.”
Evidently, he strayed from the rules. Again. Otherwise, Dareus wouldn’t have gotten a four-game suspension for violating the substance abuse policy, which means he had violated the policy at least four times during his career.
The NFL should stop being so heavyhanded on pot and be more evolved on medical marijuana. But rules are rules, and Dareus’ irresponsible behavior has hurt his team and embarrassed a franchise that was foolish enough to give him a $100 million extension – after his first drug offense.
Rex Ryan called Dareus a team player Wednesday, deferring any further comment on the situation. Dareus thanked the organization for supporting him in his struggle. The team wasn’t so kind in August, expressing disappointment that Dareus “chose to put himself first, before his teammates, coaches, the rest of the organization, and fans through his recent actions.”
The organization had to be a bit dismayed when Dareus head-faked his way out of rehab. Players pledged their support, but I got the sense that they weren’t totally sold. Kyle Williams, who has tried repeatedly to mentor his defensive linemate, said the news of ADHD wasn’t any surprise.
“Well, how many guys around here would you say had ADHD growing up?” Williams said with a laugh. “I’d say probably a good bit of ’em.”
Maybe Dareus is sincere this time. He can profess his honesty, but this makes at least five second chances. He long ago lost the benefit of the doubt, and a diagnosis doesn’t change that. Yes, he’s had a lot of personal tragedy, but so have many NFL players.
“Talk is cheap,” he said. “It’s not about words. It’s all action now.”
That’s right. Dareus needs to grow up and show some gratitude to the team and the fans who have stood by him, enabling him to act like some kind of victim.