NFL Week 1: Suspended players for opener (and beyond)

ByNFL Nation ESPN logo
Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The NFL season will start a bit later for many players across the league. Here's a look at who is suspended for Week 1 (and beyond for some) and how that player's absence might affect his team.

Arizona Cardinals

Patrick Peterson, CB

Suspension: Will miss six games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy.

What it means: The Cardinals will be without one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL for six games, which includes an impressive slate of quarterbacks: Matthew Stafford, Lamar Jackson, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Andy Dalton and Matt Ryan. Losing Peterson changes the Cardinals' defense, which was going to be predicated on man coverage in a switch back to a 3-4 scheme. The impact of Peterson's absence was magnified when Robert Alford, the corner lining up on the opposite side, went down for six weeks because of a broken leg. Instead of leaving one cornerback getting picked on, the Cardinals now have two. -- Josh Weinfuss

Cincinnati Bengals

Alex Redmond, OL

Suspension: Will miss four games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy.

What it means: The undrafted free agent out of UCLA started 15 games at right guard in 2018 and tested positive for a banned substance during the offseason. When Redmond is available starting in Week 5, he will likely be the backup to fifth-year guard John Miller, who has been the starter throughout the preseason, even after Redmond was cleared to practice. At the very least, Redmond will provide depth on an offensive line littered with question marks heading into the season. With Redmond coming off the bench, all three interior starters will be new in coach Zac Taylor's first season. -- Ben Baby

Cleveland Browns

Antonio Callaway, WR

Suspension: Will miss four games for violating the NFL's policy and program on substances of abuse.

What it means: After leading the Browns with five touchdown receptions last season, Callaway was set to flank Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry as Cleveland's third or fourth receiver, along with Rashard Higgins. Now, quarterback Baker Mayfield will have to lean on Damion Ratley or trade pickup Taywan Taylor as a fourth receiver. Complicating matters, not only will Callaway be away from the team for the first month of the season, he also had a high-ankle sprain in the preseason. Meaning Callaway could be particularly rusty when he's eligible to return, raising the question about what impact he'll be able to offer the Browns even after he's back. -- Jake Trotter

Kareem Hunt, RB

Suspension: Will miss eight games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

What it means: The Browns have given the 2017 NFL rushing champ a chance to reset his life and his football career, knowing beforehand he'd be serving a lengthy suspension. They're positioned to weather it, as returning starter Nick Chubb is back after breaking the franchise rookie rushing record. That said, Cleveland did trade backup Duke Johnson to the Houston Texans during the preseason, and will be relying on Dontrell Hilliard, an undrafted rookie in 2018, as a stopgap No. 2 back until Hunt's return. But assuming Hunt holds up his end of the bargain off the field, the Browns will have one of the league's elite running back duos in Chubb and Hunt for the season's backstretch. -- Trotter

Dallas Cowboys

Randy Gregory, DE

Suspension: Suspended indefinitely for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

What it means: Gregory was the Cowboys' second-best pass-rusher a year ago behind DeMarcus Lawrence, finishing with a career-high six sacks. What makes that figure even more impressive is Gregory played in two games in 2016-17. Without Gregory, who has not started the reinstatement process yet, and Robert Quinn, the Cowboys' pass rush takes a hit and will have to rely more on the group than individual ability. If and when Gregory returns, will he be able to get up to speed as quickly as he did a year ago, when he was at least able to participate in training camp? -- Todd Archer

Robert Quinn, DE

Suspension: Will miss two games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy.

What it means: With Gregory suspended indefinitely, the Cowboys acquired Quinn in a trade from the Miami Dolphins to bolster the pass rush. He had 6.5 sacks last season, which would have been second on the Cowboys last season. Before suffering a fractured left hand in training camp, he showed the coaches he had plenty of juice left to get after the quarterback while also displaying some better-than-expected run-stopping. With Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford entering the season with limited practice time because of injuries, Quinn's absence will hurt. -- Archer

Indianapolis Colts

Chad Kelly, QB

Suspension: Will miss two games for violating NFL's personal conduct policy.

What it means: Kelly, at best, will be the Colts' third quarterback following the signing Tuesday of Brian Hoyer (three-year, $12 million deal) to be the backup behind starter Jacoby Brissett. Kelly, the nephew of Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, had an impressive preseason for the Colts, completing 54 of 73 passes for 583 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. -- Mike Wells

Kansas City Chiefs

Morris Claiborne, CB

Suspension: Will miss four games for violating NFL's substance abuse policy.

What it means: The Chiefs are thin at cornerback and it illustrates their need that they signed Claiborne this year during training camp knowing he would be suspended. Until he returns, the Chiefs will go with the largely untested Charvarius Ward as a starting corner. Ward had an up-and-down preseason. The Chiefs without Claiborne also have little in the way of proven depth beyond starter Bashaud Breeland and nickelback Kendall Fuller. Chances are Claiborne will have a significant role when he returns to the Chiefs for their Week 5 game against the Colts at Arrowhead Stadium. -- Adam Teicher

De'Anthony Thomas, WR

Suspension: Will miss one game for violating NFL's substance abuse policy.

What it means: Thomas' main value is on special teams. The Chiefs signed him during the preseason after losing Marcus Kemp, another top player in the kicking game, for the season with a knee injury. The Chiefs will try to cover for Thomas' absence in the opener against the Jaguars by using Tremon Smith, who doesn't have much of a role on offense but made the team because of his special-teams abilities. On offense, Thomas is no better than fifth on the wide receiver depth chart and the Chiefs can easily absorb his loss here, particularly for one game. -- Teicher

Los Angeles Rams

Aaron Neary, C

Suspension: Will miss the first four games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

What it means: Neary is a reserve center and guard who has spent the majority of the past two seasons on the Rams' practice squad. He started Weeks 1 through 3 of the preseason at center and could provide depth behind rookie center Brian Allen. But Neary has appeared in one game, Week 17 of 2017, when Rams coach Sean McVay chose to rest starters with a playoff berth secured. -- Lindsey Thiry

Minnesota Vikings

Holton Hill, CB

Suspension: Will miss a total of eight games for two separate suspensions: violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs and substance abuse policy.

What it means: These suspensions, which were handed down in April and July, respectively, put the Vikings in a bind with their depth at cornerback. While Mike Hughes coming off the physically unable to perform list is a good sign that his return is imminent, there's no word on how many games he'll sit before being ready to play. So it's Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander and ... who? Minnesota might like the upside in some of its young corners, but can any of them play in an actual NFL game? With Hill sidelined for the first half of the season, the Vikings can only hope they have a reliable backup among their current crop of corners. -- Courtney Cronin

New England Patriots

Benjamin Watson, TE

Suspension: Will miss four games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing substances policy.

What it means: Watson had explained how he was retired and prescribed bioidentical testosterone cypionate to assist in healing of body and mind, and only after he decided to come out of retirement did he realizehe would be facing a four-game ban. He considered not coming out of retirement because of it, but ultimately took the plunge to sign with New England, and now projects as one of the top options as the club looks to fill the void created by Rob Gronkowski's retirement. Without Watson, the Patriots have an even bigger hole to fill, and there have been no sure-fire answers in training camp, particularly with Matt LaCosse coming up injured in the preseason opener and being sidelined for an extended period since. This likely means the Patriots will run fewer packages with multiple tight ends, relying more on fullback James Develin. --Mike Reiss

New Orleans Saints

David Onyemata, DT

Suspension: Will miss one game for violating NFL's substance abuse policy.

What it means: The timing stinks. The Saints could really use Onyemata as a starter in Week 1 since Sheldon Rankins is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. And to make matters worse, the next man up is Mario Edwards Jr., who has been dealing with an unspecified injury of his own for the past two weeks. The Saints might have to use up a roster spot for a Week 1 fill-in (and if it's a vested veteran, they might have to guarantee his full salary for the season). Onyemata, 26, has gotten better each year since being drafted in the fourth round in 2016 out of the University of Manitoba in Canada. He played about 60% of New Orleans' defensive snaps last season at both tackle spots, with 4.5 sacks, and was a big part of the Saints finishing second in the NFL in run defense. -- Mike Triplett

New York Giants

Golden Tate, WR

Suspension: Will miss four games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing substances policy.

What it means: The player the Giants signed primarily to help offset the loss in production of Odell Beckham Jr. will not be available for the first quarter of the season. It's a problem because there isn't another proven option to fill the void. Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler and Russell Shepard will likely see increased playing time, but none has a track record even close to Tate. Latimer has averaged 12.5 yards receiving per game throughout his career, Fowler 16.3 yards and Shepard 9.8. Tate has averaged 52.7 yards per game while accumulating three 1,000-yard seasons and making a Pro Bowl. His presence will be missed as the Giants likely look for running back Saquon Barkley and tight end Evan Engram to handle bigger roles in the passing game early this season. -- Jordan Raanan

New York Jets

Chris Herndon, TE

Suspension: Four games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

What it means: This is a blow to the offense because the Jets don't have another pass-receiving tight end on the roster. Veteran Ryan Griffin, acquired on the eve of training camp, will assume the starter's role. He can be an underneath option in the passing attack, but he won't threaten a deep seam the way Herndon can. This will affect quarterback Sam Darnold, who developed a nice rapport with Herndon last season. To compensate, the Jets could use receiver Quincy Enunwa and/or running back Ty Montgomery in a quasi-tight end role in certain packages. -- Rich Cimini

Brandon Copeland, OLB

Suspension: Four games for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

What it means: Copeland, coming off his best season (five sacks), was projected to be part of a rotation at outside linebacker. He's an underrated pass-rusher. He generated 29 quarterback pressures last season as an edge rusher, according to NFL Next Gen Stats data. He also is a big contributor on special teams. Chances are, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will continue his rotation, but the depth takes a hit without Copeland. -- Cimini

Oakland Raiders

Richie Incognito, LG

Suspension: Will miss two games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

What it means: The Raiders lose their starting left guard, a controversial offseason signing due to his history of bad behavior who nonetheless is a major part of the rebuilt and massive offensive line. Incognito, who turned 36 on July 5, has been on his best behavior in training camp and the preseason, serving as a mentor for second-year left tackle Kolton Miller. "Hopefully I can bring a little bit of that nasty edge to him," Incognito said, "get him to come out of his shell a little bit." Jonathan Cooper, signed two weeks before camp, should slide in at left guard in Incognito's absence, though undrafted rookie Lester Cotton Sr. got the start there in the preseason finale at Seattle. The Raiders figured Incognito would face a suspension when they brought him aboard on a one-year prove-it deal and, as general manager Mike Mayock said when Oakland signed him, "You can't have all Boy Scouts." -- Paul Gutierrez

Nevin Lawson, CB

Suspension: Will miss four games for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

What it means: The Raiders lose some depth at cornerback, with the five-year veteran's suspension providing roster opportunities for undrafted rookie Keisean Nixon and second-year DB Nick Nelson. But consider this: Lawson, a fourth-round draft pick of the Lions, is still seeking his first career interception -- after 62 games, including 54 starts. Lawson announced his own suspension before the league and Oakland did, saying on social media, "Despite being very cautious about what I put into my body, I discovered that a test determined that I ingested something that was on the NFL's banned substance list. Specifically, the substance is Ostarine, which I have never knowingly taken." -- Gutierrez

Seattle Seahawks

Jarran Reed, DT

Suspension: Will miss six games for violating NFL's personal-conduct policy.

What it means: Reed's suspension looked like a devastating blow to the Seahawks' already-suspect defensive line when it was announced right before training camp. It's a lot better now that Ezekiel Ansah is on track to play in Week 1 and recent trade acquisition Jadeveon Clowney is set to line up on the opposite end. While Ansah and Clowney should solidify the pass-rush, Seattle might feel Reed's absence against the run. He was second on the team with 10.5 sacks in 2018 as he turned himself into a three-down player after being primarily a run-stuffer his first two seasons. Second-year defensive tackle Poona Ford is in line to start for Reed and has looked like a potential breakout candidate, but it would be unrealistic to expect him to play at the same Pro Bowl-caliber level Reed did last season. The other question with Reed's suspension is how it might affect negotiations on a long-term extension as he plays out the final year of his rookie contract. -- Brady Henderson

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ryan Smith, CB

Suspension: Will miss four games for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

What it means: Smith is a backup to Vernon Hargreaves, Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart and the Bucs are fortunate to have depth here. Rookie Jamel Dean had a strong preseason, with a pick-six in the third game (he dropped an interception prior to that), and Sean Murphy-Bunting is progressing. The one area where it hurts the Bucs is on special teams -- Smith is a strong gunner in kick coverage. -- Jenna Laine

Tennessee Titans

Taylor Lewan, LT

Suspension: Will miss four games for violating the NFL's policy against performance-enhancing substances.

What it means: The Titans lose their best offensive lineman which is bad news for a team that gave up 47 sacks (10th-most) last season. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Lewan had an 85.8 pass block win rate last season, which was 10th among all offensive tackles with at least 300 blocks last season. Running back Derrick Henry averaged 5.8 yards per carry when running to the left side and 5.1 yards per carry when running outside of the left tackle, Lewan's position. The Titans will turn to reserve swing tackle Dennis Kelly to take Lewan's place while he's suspended. Kelly is facing the challenge of matching up against Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon in Cleveland in Week 1 along with Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue in Jacksonville in Week 3. -- Turron Davenport

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