St. Louis Rams WR Stedman Bailey Suspended 4 Games; Replaced on Roster by Wes Welker


The St. Louis Rams were dealt a frustrating blow on Monday, as wide receiver Stedman Bailey was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Via ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the suspension came after Bailey decided to drop his appeal, meaning that the Rams and the third-year wide receiver have known about the impending ban for some time.

This is Bailey’s second drug violation in as many years, as he was scheduled to be suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season due to a violation of the performance-enhancing drug policy. However, when the NFL amended its drug policy in the early part of the regular season, it made changes that overturned Bailey’s ban, and he was reinstated after just two games.

Reading between the lines of that adjustment in the policy, Bailey’s first suspension seemingly came for some variation of amphetamines, which were removed from the performance-enhancing drug policy and transferred to the substance abuse policy under the amended drug program. Having that suspension come off the record helped the third-year receiver, who would have faced a year-long suspension (or a 10-game ban if the drug he tested positive for was marijuana) if the previous suspension had come under the substance abuse policy.

Bailey is the second Rams player to receive a suspension under the substance abuse policy in as many weeks. Last week, backup running back Trey Watts received an indefinite suspension for his second violation of the substance abuse policy. Head coach Jeff Fisher said that “the message has been sent” and expressed frustration that the team has been hit with drug bans in back-to-back weeks, though it seems that Bailey’s job is safe. Fisher said Monday that the Rams are looking forward to getting Bailey back, but he warned that “this is (Bailey’s) last go-round, and if he wants to flourish in this league and have a career in this league, he’s going to have to change his lifestyle”.

To replace Bailey on the roster, the Rams signed 34-year-old wide receiver Wes Welker, who is widely considered one of the greatest receivers of his time, but who has not been with a team since the end of last season. Welker had a rough 2014 in several regards. Ironically, just like Bailey, Welker missed the first two games of the season on a drug suspension after being rumored to have taken MDMA, a form of ecstasy, at the Kentucky Derby. The 5-foot-9, 185-pounder also dealt with concussions, a chronic problem during his career, in 2014. He lost his starting job down the stretch and ended the year with 49 catches for 464 yards and two touchdowns, his lowest totals in each category since 2006.

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Welker, an undrafted free agent who was initially signed by the Miami Dolphins in 2004, had five 1,000-yard receiving seasons in six years with the New England Patriots from 2007 to 2012. Though his targets were significantly reduced after he became the third option in the Denver Broncos’ spread attack for the 2013 season, he had a career-high 1o touchdowns for a team that went to the Super Bowl, only to lose 43-8 to the Seattle Seahawks.

Welker’s 890 career receptions rank him sixth among active NFL receivers, while his 9,822 yards rank him 10th. In addition to the 2013 Broncos team that he played in the Super Bowl with, Welker was part of the 2007 and 2011 Patriots teams that made it to the Super Bowl and lost, leading the Patriots in receptions during both of those seasons.

Fisher acknowledged that Welker may not be active for Sunday’s game as he gets up to speed in the Rams’ offense, though he praised Welker’s conditioning after not having been with a team at any point this year. While Welker gets integrated, look for undrafted rookie Bradley Marquez and former top wideout Brian Quick to be featured more extensively in the gameplan.

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