Browns suffer another setback

Originally Published: November 12, 2003
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

BEREA, Ohio -- An already trying stretch for the Cleveland Browns has become even more tumultuous.

William Green
Green

Starting tailback William Green has been suspended four games following a repeat violation of the NFL substance abuse policy, the league announced Thursday.

Green was already enrolled in the league's treatment program, and the suspension means the second-year back had twice violated his personal program.

Earlier on Thursday Green withdrew his appeal, which hastened implementation of the penalty.

"We commend him for accepting the responsibilities and consequences of his conduct and immediately moving forward in a positive fashion, with the emphasis on resolution rather than avoidance," said Browns president Carmen Policy.

Earlier this week cut wide receiver Kevin Johnson, the franchise's leading receiver in each of his five seasons with the club.

"It has been a very difficult week," Policy said.

Green's suspension is just the latest setback for the Browns, who have lost their last three games. The team has been unable to settle on a starting quarterback, and has faced injuries that have forced coaches to use nine different offensive line starters.

Green, 23, served a one-game team suspension for last week's matchup with Kansas City following an Oct. 27 arrest for driving recklessly in a Cleveland suburb. The arrest also included charges for DUI and for marijuana possession. The suspension by the Browns came despite recommendations to club officials from the league that the sanctions might violate some stipulations of the collective bargaining agreement.

The league will count that game as part of its suspension.

Suspensions for violations of the substance abuse policy fall under the purview of the NFL, and not individual franchises, and the NFL Players Association is poised to file a grievance against the club. Green was docked $17,647 for the team-levied suspension, the equivalent of one game-check, based on his 2003 base salary of $300,000.

Policy insisted on Wednesday morning that the action by the club was "for reasons that were in addition to, albeit surrounding, the arrest for DUI and the possession charge."

Cleveland officials and coaches were cryptic on Wednesday when asked if Green would return to the field this weekend. There are suspicions that the Browns were alerted by the NFL that a league-mandated suspension was pending. It may have been little more than coincidence, but it is nonetheless notable, that the Browns on Wednesday activated rookie tailback Lee Suggs from the physically unable to perform list and conceded he could see his first action of the season this weekend.

James Jackson will start in Green's spot on Sunday against Arizona.

Green will lose $70,588, and he is not eligible to play until Dec. 8 when the Browns host the Rams.

Green, a former Boston College star, tested positive for marijuana at least once during his college career and was suspended for the offense.

His off-field problems at Boston College, combined with an ulcerative colitis condition that has been successfully controlled with medication, dropped Green's stock a bit in the '02 draft. He was widely regarded as the premier tailback prospect but fell to the 16th overall slot. He signed a seven-year contract that voided to five years at a total of $7.85 million, and the deal included a $4.1 million signing bonus.

After a slow start, Green emerged over the second half of the season as a real force and he finished his rookie campaign with 243 carries for 887 yards and six touchdowns. In six games this season, Green has 559 yards and one touchdown on 142 attempts. In addition to the game he missed for suspension last Sunday, he also was sidelined for an Oct. 26 contest at New England because of a shoulder separation.

Policy said despite Green's problems, the Browns consider him a big part of their future.

"We're going to do our darndest day and night to help him do whatever he has to do to keep his life in order," Policy said.

Policy said Green, who hasn't spoken to the media since his arrest, is sorry for his actions.

"He breaks your heart, because he's contrite," Policy said. "His reaction to accepting the suspension immediately goes a long way in my mind to saying we've taken a pretty big step in the right direction."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report..