For players on the fringe of making the 53-man roster, the slightest misstep can carry a hefty price.
A pair of Minnesota Vikings are hoping an offseason lapse in judgment doesn’t cost them a shot at making the team.
Third-year linebacker Kentrell Brothers and third-year wide receiver Cayleb Jones were both hit with four-game suspensions in April for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Brothers was a key special teams contributor a year ago with hopes of getting more defensive reps in 2018. Jones spent part of 2016 and all of 2017 on the team’s practice squad but may have had a shot at claiming a spot after the departures of Michael Floyd and Jarius Wright.
Neither Brothers nor Jones will be eligible to play until Week 5 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“It hurt,” Brothers told Zone Coverage. “I made a silly mistake. I took something I didn’t know what was in it. I got popped. It’s nobody’s fault but mine. I apologized to the organization, apologized to my teammates, my family, old schools. Stuff like that is disappointing, especially for a guy like me. I’m out here everyday, trying not to think about it, doing whatever I can.”
Brothers was suspended on April 20, while Jones was suspended 10 days later on April 30.
Jones was also involved in an incident in March, during which he scuffled with his brother, Zay Jones of the Buffalo Bills, who was eventually arrested. There’s no indication, however, that Cayleb Jones’ suspension had any connection to that event.
“It was something that could easily have been avoided,” said Jones of his suspension. “It was a careless mistake.”
Brothers and Jones are two out of 14 NFL players to be suspended for substance violations in 2018. They are the first Vikings to be suspended for PEDs since Spencer Nealy in 2014. Last season, Floyd missed the season’s first four games for an alcohol-related violation.
Mike Zimmer will get to evaluate his players during preseason games before they begin their suspensions in Week 1. They won’t take up a roster spot while suspended.
The question is whether or not the Vikings will bring them back when Week 5 comes around.
“I talked to them both about what the situation was and what happened and those kind of things,” said Zimmer. “Like I usually do, I tell them my true feelings on everything.”
“I apologized to [Zimmer]. I told him how I felt,” Brothers said. “I told him that he didn’t need to worry about anything. I’m not addicted to drugs or anything. I just made a mistake. ‘I apologize, and whatever you want me to do, I’m willing to do.’
“He told me that he appreciated me coming up there. For a lot of guys, it’s intimidating going up to the head coach and talking to him like that, but he appreciated it. He showed me some respect and treated me like an adult.”
With the departure of Emmanuel Lamur in free agency, Brothers may have been in line to be the team’s primary backup at linebacker. He played the third-most special teams snaps (307) a season ago.
Jones made headlines last January when he was the first to embrace Stefon Diggs following his walk-off touchdown in the NFC Divisional Game. He’s still looking to make his first career catch.
“Obviously I wasn’t playing last year,” Jones told Zone Coverage, “so you take notice of that and realize that you have to improve in every facet of your game.”