- Chris Mortensen, NFL reporter
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman is a stage one participant in the NFL's drug program, but league and player sources with knowledge of his status said he is not one strike away from a suspension despite being subject to random testing.
Freeman has obtained a temporary-use exemption for a prescription drug that normally would be on the banned list, the sources said.
In a statement released Monday night, Freeman said he has a prescription for Adderall to treat ADHD; however, last year he accidentally took Ritalin, which triggered a positive test. As a result of the positive test he submitted to frequent drug screenings, leading to his placement in stage one of the league's drug program.
"... [T]o assure everyone that the error was a one-time mistake, I agreed to be voluntarily tested in the 'NFL Program,' " Freeman said in the statement.
"Since that time, I have taken and passed all 46 drug tests I've been given, which test for every drug and banned substance imaginable," Freeman said. "I agreed to allow such testing to be done at my workplace [team facility] because I spend all of my time there and I have nothing whatsoever to hide or be embarrassed about."
"Unfortunately, it appears that some people who may have noticed the testing at my workplace have made hurtful and incorrect assumptions and chosen to disseminate inaccurate and very disturbing information," Freeman said.
Freeman was benched last week as the Buccaneers' starter and would prefer to be traded or released but the team has no plans to release him. Under the drug policy, teams that are interested in acquiring Freeman are entitled to know his status only if he is one strike away from a suspension, according to the sources.
"It is a shame that when times have gotten tough, people have chosen to attack the character of others, rather than supporting each other," Freeman said.
Freeman has not had any incidents that have placed him in jeopardy of suspension, such as a positive test for a banned street-drug substance, sources said. Thus, Freeman is in relatively good standing under the program, sources added.
"Let me be very clear. I have never tested positive for any illegal drugs or related substances," Freeman said in his statement.
There are three stages to the substance abuse program that contain a variety of corrective measures, including random testing, treatment, fines and suspensions.
As for the temporary-use exemption of the prescription drug, that has been approved for Freeman.
NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith is visiting the Bucs on Tuesday as part of his annual 32-team tour over the next couple of months, sources confirmed.
2hEric D. Williams