If Guion's not dealing pot, Packers should make a deal

Pete Dougherty
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Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was an important contributor on the field and in the locker room in 2014.

The first thing the Green Bay Packers have to do regarding Letroy Guion is determine whether he's dealing marijuana.

If they're sure he isn't — and they have the resources to get a pretty good idea — then they ought to re-sign their defensive lineman. Yes, the same player who recently was arrested in Bradford County, Fla., for possession of about three-quarters of a pound of pot, which is a felony, and an unloaded and registered gun, which is a felony because of the pot, plus about $190,000 in cash.

When details of Guion's arrest broke Feb. 4, it looked really bad. All that pot and cash could mean only two things: He's a dealer, and the Packers are done with him.

It only got worse when background checks showed that his father has been arrested at least twice in the past four years for cocaine-related offenses.

But as information trickles out, it's looking more plausible that Guion is not a drug dealer. It's early in the legal process, and it's still a big step from plausible to an acceptable degree of certainty. But if he's not a dealer, it should be easy enough to show. Guion's attorney is saying the cash was from recently cashed Packers paychecks. That would leave a paper trail at a bank that he can show the courts and the Packers.

Now, if the Packers get a whiff of evidence that suggests Guion has been dealing, there's no way they can keep him around. That's a nonstarter.

But let's assume they're convinced he isn't. How do you explain it all?

I'll never understand why someone would carry around that kind of cash unless it's for something illegal. But people do. Ed Reed, the former All-Pro safety with the Baltimore Ravens, had $50,000 stolen from his car in February 2013 in Houston. Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. has posted pictures of himself online with tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash. It's how some people roll.

So, yeah, carrying that kind of cash is mind-boggling and begging for trouble. Even if Guion is taking care of family, there are better ways to provide money than handing out stacks of cash. But unwise though it may be, it's not illegal and not unheard of.

Then there's the pot. The police report it was 357 grams, or about .787 of a pound. That's a lot as well. But it wouldn't be much for someone of Guion's means. If Guion can show the $190,000 came from Packers paychecks, then it's plausible the pot was for personal use. As one friend of mine suggested, he might be like a grocery shopper buying in bulk for the offseason, basically providing for himself and everyone he's smoking with for the next few months.

So if the pot was for personal use, it's reason for the Packers to be concerned but not reason to part ways, at least not yet. In 2012, former NFL tackle Lomas Brown estimated that at least 50 percent of NFL players smoke marijuana regularly. If every team got rid of its pot smokers, you'd be looking at a whole new league.

Still, if the pot was for his own use then it suggests that Guion, at least in the offseason, is smoking a lot and could have trouble quitting. It's also not the way an athlete should treat his brain and body. While there's convincing evidence that smoking pot relieves general orthopedic pain that football players live with daily, it also can hurt athletic performance by impairing concentration, motor skills and perceptual accuracy.

This leads to the bigger issue of whether pot should even be illegal, which we don't have time to get into here. Suffice it to say, I find the arguments for legalizing it persuasive. The medical evidence strongly suggests it's less dangerous than alcohol in most ways. The people who use it regularly are risking damage to themselves, but that's their call.

Really, what bothers me as much as anything about Guion's arrest is that, according to the police report, he played the "Do you know who I am?" card. When are the semi-rich and semi-famous going to realize that that doesn't work on cops anymore, and that it's more likely to make things worse? Arrogance really does rank near the top of human failings.

Anyway, let's say the Packers are satisfied that Guion isn't a dealer, and the pot was for personal use.

First, even if he avoids jail time, he's going to land in trouble with the NFL. It's not immediately clear whether the league will get him for violating its substance-abuse or personal-conduct policies — he didn't test positive for drug use, so the guess here is it will be for personal conduct because he had enough pot to be charged with felony possession.

It's also not clear what kind of penalty the league will impose, though it's usually safe to start with a four-game suspension. That would mean he can take part in training camp but then have to miss the first four regular season games. It's up to the league whether he can be at team facilities during his suspension.

Either way, after that kind of layoff, he'll need a week or two to get back in playing shape, and he probably won't be fully effective until he's been back a month. So a four-week suspension in effect will render him a half-season player in 2015.

That alone diminishes his value on the open market, and the marijuana use will diminish it further. Guion will be a free agent in March, and without the arrest he probably was in line for a two- or three-year contract that averaged maybe $3 million a season.

The best guess now is that he'll have to sign a one-year deal at the $870,000 minimum for a player of his experience. That was one expensive bag of pot.

So why bring him back if the Packers are convinced he's not a dealer? One, he was a good player last year at age 27; two, he'll be cheap; and three, all signs suggest he wasn't a problem in the locker room.

Guion in fact was a godsend for the Packers last season after they signed him to a one-year deal that paid him $1 million in salary and bonuses. When B.J. Raji's season ended in training camp because of a torn biceps, Guion became a starter even though he missed most of camp because of a hamstring injury. He played better in 2014 than Raji did in '13.

Also, you ask around the Packers about Guion, and you get the same answers you used to get about Johnny Jolly. He loves football, gives it his all, plays to win, and is outgoing and popular among his teammates. That's essentially what Aaron Rodgers was saying when he endorsed Guion's locker-room presence on his radio show after Guion's arrest.

The final call, of course, is Ted Thompson's. The Packers general manager brought back Jolly after a three-year suspension, but they had a longer history, and Jolly was one of his guys. Whether Thompson will cut as much slack for a player he's had for only a season, we'll see. But if he's convinced Guion isn't dealing pot, then Thompson ought to bring him back.

— and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty

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