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Returning From Suspensions: Impact Players Making a Comeback

Because substance abuse, performance enhancers, and personal conduct violations are the norm in the NFL.

Tom Spurling

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Week 5 of the NFL season is the average return week for players suspended for substance abuse, performance enhancers, and personal conduct violations. Teams are excited to have their star players back in action while some teams are going to have wait a little longer.

Julian Edelman: New England Patriots 

The Patriots leader and star wide receiver will return to action this week in a Thursday night matchup against the Colts. Edelman missed the first four weeks of the season after violating the leagues policy for performance enhancing drugs.

The theory behind this is that after Edelman tore his ACL during the 2017 preseason, Edelman decided to incorporate performance enhancers into his recovery in order to get back to action faster. A suspension is four games, but his normal recovery time would have caused him to miss more than that.

The Patriots get much needed relief in a receiving core that has underperformed through 4 weeks. The last season Edelman suited up for he hauled in 98 receptions for over 1,100 yards, and made the game changing circus reception in Super Bowl 51 to help his team finish the historic comeback win.

The Patriots are set to make a run after blowing out the Dolphins last week, and Edelman will be a big part of the winning streak.

Mark Ingram: New Orleans Saints

Ingram returns to New Orleans from his 4 game suspension for using performance enhancing drugs and will face the Redskins in his first game back.

Unfortunately for the former Alabama back, the offense hasn’t really missed him while he’s been gone. The Saints have scored at least 30 points in 3 of their 4 games this season and currently sit atop the NFC South at 3-1.

Back up Alvin Kamara has been a monster in the absence of Ingram, with his combined all purpose yards (rushing and receiving)  in each game this season surpassing 100 yards. Kamara has been primarily a receiving back through the first month, and is in no danger of losing reps in the passing game.

However Ingram’s return will surely boost a rushing attack that has only gained 100 yards in one game so far this season. Ingram rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons and in 2017 doubled his touchdowns total from the previous year to 12.

The Saints have taken advantage of a slow start by Atlanta, and adding a new dynamic to a powerful offense will only help their chances of taking the division.

Jameis Winston: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Winston returned last week from his three games suspension for inappropriately groping an Uber driver during the offseason. But the Buccaneers decided to go with who had the hot hand in week 3, and that was Ryan Fitzpatrick.

However a brutal 48-10 loss where Fitzpatrick couldn’t get the offense to move at all found Winston taking the reigns in the fourth quarter. For the former first overall pick it was more of the same as he managed to put a touchdown on the board but tossed two interceptions to the defense.

Tampa Bay is on their bye week but have already named Winston the starter for the week 6 contest against the Falcons. Fitzpatrick had a good run in weeks one and two, but couldn’t maintain the hot streak and seems to be taking the back up roll from now on.

Winston has flashed moments of greatness and periods of terribly poor play on the field through his first couple seasons, and his off the field miscues have been a constant black cloud over his teams head.

Tampa Bay wants Winston to be the franchise QB they expected him to be when they drafted him, and this season could be his last chance to prove it.

Vontaze Burfict: Cincinnati Bengals 

Burfict returns from his 4 game suspension for performance enhancement drugs just in time to anchor a Cincinnati defense that needs help. The hard hitting linebacker has not played a full season since 2013 due to injuries or suspensions.

Burfict is what you call an “Old School” type of linebacker on defense. He hits hard, fast, and hits wherever he wants. Burfict has created a culture in the Cincy defense of hit first, ask later. Since he entered Cincinnati in 2012, Burfict has been fined, ejected, or suspended 12 times for illegal hits, unsportsmanlike conduct, or substance abuse violations.

That is a true, prototype defensive player if you ask me. (Or anyone who watched football in the 50s/60s).

In a league that is going soft, Burfict has refused to adjust to new tackling rules, and the Bengals love that. The defense dominates while he racks up fine after fine with little to no impact on his heavy wallet.

The Bengal defense has given up 30 points twice this season, and at least 20 in each game. Burfict, if he can stay on the field, will surely help those number as his team looks to take the AFC North over the Ravens.

Le’Veon Bell: Pittsburgh Steelers 

Bell has missed the first four games of the season but not because of a suspension, he has been holding out on his contract in hopes of signing a long term deal. But now in a stunning twist, Bell has stated that he will return to the Steelers week 7 of this season.

The relationship between Bell and his team is rocky to say the least, and many even question whether the team wants him back. But this is actually a perfect situation for both parties.

Bell is not going to resign with the Steelers, but he still needs to prove to teams he can carry the pigskin. So, his intentions are to comeback after resting for half the season, while the Steelers are at their lowest, and explode onto the scene and turn the team around.

It’s a good plan, but only if the Steelers want him back, and only if they don’t trade him before the week 8 deadline.

The Steelers on the other hand don’t really want Bell back on the team. He has caused turmoil in the locker room and abandoned his team for half the season.

But they need him, and they need him bad.

Understudy James Connor has struggled to get anything going on the ground since week one. With the only threat being in the air, teams have been able to defend the predictable Steeler passing game behind an aging Ben Rothlisberger.

If the Steelers can mange just one win before Bell gets back they have a chance to make a run for the division, but its a slim one. The Bengals already have a 3 game lead and Bell won’t rerun for another two weeks. Pittsburgh has to decide whether this season is worth saving or if its time to officially move on from Bell.

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Tom is a student at Fisher College in Boston. Tom spends his time conquering video games and exploring his city of Boston. His favorite part of writing is the stories and hopes to tell them for years to come.

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