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Wednesday, July 16
Anderson faces another idle season

By Len Pasquarelli

Exiled cornerback Rashard Anderson, suspended for one year by the league last May following a repeat violation of the substance-abuse policy, has been denied reinstatement and now faces the possibility of a second consecutive idle season.

The former Carolina Panthers' first-round draft pick and his representatives were apprised by NFL officials earlier this week that Anderson again violated the substance-abuse rules in recent months, even while he continued treatment, and that his suspension ostensibly has been extended.

Sources said that Anderson is not eligible now to petition the league for reinstatement until late this season. There are no guarantees, especially in light of recent events, that the NFL would even consider permitting Anderson to play in 2003.

The latest sanctions certainly jeopardize Anderson's tenure with the Panthers, who might release him before training camp begins on July 25, and his professional football future in general. A first-round pick in the 2000 draft, Anderson has not played in a game since the finale of the 2001 season.

Even given his rare size, and still untapped potential, some teams might have a problem taking on a player following a two-year hiatus and carrying some off-field baggage. This will be the second year in a row that Anderson hasn't even had a training camp.

League and team officials, bound by confidentiality guidelines, have offered nothing about Anderson's status. Even off the record, the silence has been deafening. But it does seem more than coincidental that on Monday, when league officials informed Anderson his request for reinstatement had been rejected, the Panthers signed unrestricted free agent cornerback Emmanuel McDaniel, who was with the team in 2002.

"I still think he could be back this year, but not in the timeframe we had hoped for," said Anderson's agent, Ben Wilson, who seemed confident only two months ago his client's return was imminent. "It's going to be a while now, it seems, and that is frustrating. But he is going to have to get things in order and it appears Rashard has more time to do so."

Wilson conceded to ESPN.com last month that Anderson, the 23rd prospect chosen overall in the 2000 draft, had been "not absolutely perfect, but not bad, either," during the treatment process. "But he is significantly better than he was at this point a year ago," Wilson said at the time.

The recidivism occurred in late May, when Anderson tested positive for marijuana. His original suspension was the result of three positive tests for marijuana in a six-month period.

If there is any positive to the situation, Wilson reiterated, it is that the year away from the game has allowed Anderson plenty of time to rehabilitate from surgery to repair a neck problem that some feared might end his career altogether. Wilson said that Anderson is now rehabilitated from the neck surgery and, physically at least, able to return to the playing field.

The former Jackson State star played in 27 games, with nine starts, in 2000-2001. He had 59 tackles, one interception and nine passes defensed.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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