St. Louis Rams RB Trey Watts Suspended Indefinitely for Violation of Substance Abuse Policy


Just a few weeks after getting reinstated from a four-game drug suspension, St. Louis Rams running back Trey Watts is now sidelined again, as the second-year back received an indefinite suspension from the NFL on Wednesday for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy.

Watts’s initial suspension was announced in May, and he served it over the first four games of the 2015 season. He then received a one-week roster exemption and was released at the end of that period, but then was brought back to the active roster shortly thereafter and suited up for the Rams’ game against the Cleveland Browns last week. With primary backup running back Tre Mason back from an ankle injury that sidelined him against Cleveland, Watts was a healthy inactive on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

In order to receive a suspension under the NFL’s substance abuse policy, a player must test positive three separate times during a specified testing window of which the player is fully aware. With that said, it was easy to criticize Watts when he received his first suspension. With this ban, however, you have to feel for Watts, who obviously has some serious issues that he needs to deal with.

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Watts would have been in Stage Three of the NFL’s substance abuse program, as he was just coming off a four-game suspension. Players who test positive for marijuana on their first violation in Stage Three receive a 10-game suspension, as opposed to the users of other banned drugs such as cocaine, heroin, MDMA, PCP, opiates, and opioids, who receive an indefinite suspension lasting at least one year upon their first violation of Stage Three. That means Watts, who is the son of former University of Oklahoma quarterback and Oklahoma congressman J.C. Watts, would have had to test positive for a drug other than marijuana on at least one occasion in order to receive an indefinite ban.

It’s difficult to see Watts, an undrafted free agent signing last year out of Tulsa, receiving another shot with the Rams upon his eventual return. He was already pretty far down the depth chart, stuck behind Todd Gurley, Benny Cunningham, and Tre Mason, as well as occasional running back Tavon Austin, on the depth chart. Though he probably would have been more likely to receive an opportunity from scrimmage if the chance arose, he was also blocked from the 46-man gameday roster by Chase Reynolds, who is listed as a running back but provides his greatest value as a core special-teamer.

The Rams will have an open spot on the 53-man roster to fill before Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. Much of the team’s practice squad talent has already evaporated in recent weeks due to season-ending injuries to Rodger Saffold and Alec Ogletree and the release of players like Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Chris Givens. If the Rams want to do a straight running back-for-back swap, they could promote undrafted rookie Malcolm Brown, who has spent the entire year on the practice squad. Other candidates that would logically make sense for depth purposes would include offensive tackle Isaiah Battle and wide receiver Nick Toon.

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