Letroy Guion now has to stay pot-free
The Green Bay Packers were right to re-sign Letroy Guion this offseason.
After the details came in from his arrest in Florida in February for possession of about two-thirds of a pound of marijuana and approximately $190,000 in cash, there was zero reason to think he was dealing pot. The money could be traced back to Packers paychecks, and there were no scales or dealing paraphernalia.
Guion had played good football for the Packers last season in the wake of B.J. Raji's season-ending torn biceps in training camp; better, really, than Raji had played the previous two or three years. There were no signs of any locker room issues with Guion, and in fact quarterback Aaron Rodgers went out of his way to endorse the defensive lineman after the arrest.
So if smoking pot was Guion's crime, and this was his first run-in with the law, then there was no good reason for general manager Ted Thompson to walk away from a player who could help his team.
But the question is whether Guion can quit smoking pot, which given the amount he was arrested with is no small thing. He'll have to quit if he's going to stay on the field, even with the NFL's new and more relaxed punishment for marijuana use.
The NFL hasn't notified Guion of his punishment for violating its substance abuse and personal conduct policies — that ruling is likely to come down before the start of training camp. He might be suspended for four games, two games or even none. My guess is two, though any suspension won't be final, because Guion will have the right to appeal.
Regardless, Guion's arrest makes it a given he'll be in the NFL's substance abuse program, if he wasn't already. The rules for the policy are a little arcane, but he could end up in either Stage 1 or 2, depending on enforcement.
In Stage 1, he'd be subject to random drug tests for three months and would need a positive test to move on to Stage 2. In Stage 2, even with the new, relaxed rules for marijuana violations, he'd be randomly drug tested for two years and suspended after three positive marijuana tests. He'll also be prohibited from drinking alcohol in either stage.
Guion was arrested with a lot of pot. Buying in that kind of bulk for personal use suggests he smoked frequently. If he smokes, the drug tests will catch him. So it's fair to ask whether he can give it up. He says he can.
"I don't think I'll miss it," Guion said after the Packers' OTA practice Wednesday. "If I wasn't playing football, I'd miss that. It's mind over matter. I have a job to do, and I have to follow the guidelines and rules."
The degree to which or even whether marijuana is addictive is a contentious question between drug war proponents and the marijuana legalization movement. The data is murky and much depends on how addiction is defined.
The most common statistic, from a study published in 1994, says about 9 percent of users are addicted. But that's disputed by both sides, and recent studies say the chances for dependency depend on many factors, such as the age when use starts (the earlier, the greater the risk), the frequency of use and underlying mental health issues.
But let's not get lost in the weeds. Suffice it to say that the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 845,000 Americans sought treatment for marijuana use in 2013. Whatever name you give it, they wanted to quit but were unable. So some people have great difficulty giving up pot.
Guion said he's not sought counseling.
"Just drop it and do it on my own," he said. "It's really willpower and manpower and mind power to do whatever you have to do to move forward and not take a step back. I have to stop and follow the rules just like everybody else."
Guion acknowledges his arrest cost him greatly. He was a free agent in March and probably would have received a two- or three-year contract that averaged in the vicinity of $3 million a year and included a substantial signing bonus. Because of the arrest he ended up signing a one-year deal with the Packers for a $1.5 million base salary and weekly roster bonuses of $71,875.
He said he also has discontinued his practice of holding large amounts of cash.
"I definitely agree it was a dumb thing to do, carrying all that cash," he said, "because now I don't have it."
Guion was referring to drug-seizure laws that up to now have prevented him from reclaiming his cash and new truck in which he was arrested.
His criminal case in Starke, Fla., was resolved in late March in a plea bargain. He paid a $5,000 fine plus court costs, and all charges were dismissed without adjudication of guilt. But his attorneys still are negotiating for return of his truck and cash, or at least a portion thereof.
Regardless of the outcome of the civil case, the Packers are counting on Guion and Raji's return this season to help make defensive line their deepest position. They didn't sign any free agents, and the defensive lineman they drafted, Christian Ringo in the sixth round, is more an inside pass rusher than a run stopper like Guion.
This offseason, the Packers' No. 1 base defense has consisted of Guion, B.J. Raji and Mike Daniels on the line. When defensive coordinator Dom Capers is looking to stop the run, even in nickel personnel when he deploys only two defensive lineman, he'll want Guion and Raji on the field.
But to do that, Guion will have to be smoke free.
"We're all out here to win the championship first and provide for our families second," Guion said. "So I'm not going to do anything where I mess that up again and make it so I can't provide for my family."
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty