The NFL announced Tuesday afternoon that Washington Redskins cornerback Cedric Griffin has been suspended for the final four games of the regular season for violating its performance-enhancing drug policy. The only way Griffin plays for the Redskins again this year is if they reach the playoffs. They currently sit at 6-6, one game behind the first-place New York Giants in the NFC East and one game behind the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC's final wild-card spot.
However, with starting safeties Tanard Jackson (drug suspension) and Brandon Meriweather (knee injuries) out for the season, the Redskins' secondary could hardly afford another loss. Griffin has functioned mainly as the team's third cornerback this year, but he sees the field a lot because so many opposing teams use three-receiver sets, and the Redskins like using him on the outside and keeping nominal starter DeAngelo Hall on inside receivers when possible. With Griffin out, rookie Richard Crawford is likely to see more playing time along with Hall and Josh Wilson, and the Redskins' already struggling secondary is likely to suffer for it.
Washington has the second-worst pass defense in the NFL this season, allowing 299 yards per game through the air. The Redskins' improved performance on defense during their current three-game winning streak has been a testament to individual over-achievement and the excellent job defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and the coaching staff have done designing schemes and coverages and adjusting during games to compensate for generally inferior personnel. Besides the two projected starting safeties, the Redskins have been without outside linebacker Brian Orakpo and defensive end Adam Carriker since early in the season due to injuries, and inside linebacker London Fletcher has struggled in recent weeks with an ankle injury. But the Redskins allowed just 16 points Monday night in a key divisional victory over the Giants and have been able to patch it together with what they have. Losing a key piece such as Griffin will only make the job of the coaching staff more difficult from week to week.
If you guys read me regularly, you know how I feel about drug suspensions in the NFL. I think the players generally deserve more scorn and attention than they get for these things. I imagine that Adderall, the unsubstantiated, unverifiable excuse-du-jour for every NFL player that's being suspended for performance-enhancing drugs these days, will ultimately factor into whatever story Griffin presents to the public. But whatever Griffin's story is and whatever the true story is, he's guilty of behavior that's at least irresponsible and likely illegal, and his fans and teammates have good reason to feel as though he has let them down.