NFL Nation: Star Caps

What's wrong with this picture?

November, 1, 2011
11/01/11
7:43
AM ET
A week ago, we told you New Orleans defensive end Will Smith was not on the ballot for the Pro Bowl. We also told you Tampa Bay safety Tanard Jackson is on the Pro Bowl ballot.

Smith
Smith
Jackson
Jackson
Both players were suspended at the start of the season. Smith missed the first two games of the season. Jackson missed the first five games before his suspension, which started last year, came to an end.

When I first saw Smith wasn’t on the ballot, I thought it might be because of his suspension. But, then, I saw Jackson was on the ballot, so I was thinking Smith’s suspension had nothing to do with his absence from the ballot.

But it turns out Smith and Jackson fell into different categories on this issue.

Bradley Handwerger got clarification from the NFL on the matter.

“Any player suspended for a violation of the league’s policy on anabolic steroids and related substances will not be eligible for selection to the Pro Bowl,’’ an NFL spokesperson said. “Tanard Jackson was suspended for violating the NFL policy and program for substances of abuse.’’

So let me get this straight. Smith was suspended for testing positive for the diuretic Star Caps, which was billed as a weight-loss supplement. When Smith first tested positive in 2008, Star Caps were commonly sold at health food stores, although the Food and Drug Administration later declared the product unsafe.

Jackson was suspended for just more than a year for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. He also was suspended for the same thing once before. So we know Jackson failed at least two drug tests.

The problem I’m seeing here is it doesn’t seem fair that Jackson’s on the ballot and Smith isn’t.

Although the supplement was banned by the NFL at the time Smith tested positive, it was not illegal. The substance Jackson was using was illegal and his suspensions showed he used it at least twice.

I’m not saying Smith was right in using a banned supplement, but he wasn’t breaking the law. Jackson was.

If the rule was the other way around and Smith was on the ballot and Jackson wasn’t, I could understand that. But, at least to me, it sure looks like the NFL got this rule backwards.

Oh, by the way, I checked out the details of Smith’s contract. His absence from the ballot could cost him a nice chunk of change. Smith has an incentive clause that calls for him to get a $250,000 bonus each time he’s selected to the Pro Bowl.

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