After many false positives released to the media, we now seem to know that only one high-profile college player tested positive for smoking marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine. Florida wide receiver Percy Harvin had weed in his system, according to FoxSports.com, and that will cost him several million dollars as he slides down the draft board.
The perception is that teams don't want to have a known pot smoker like Harvin on their team, but the reality is quite different. NFL personnel executives live in the real world, and they know that there are productive players on their teams who smoke pot or use other illegal narcotics. The problem for teams is a player who smokes pot when he knows he's about to get tested for using it. That's because, as Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com puts it, he could become the next Ricky Williams and have his career sidetracked by numerous suspensions.
If he can't stop for a combine test, he probably won't stop for a league test and that leads to suspensions, which reflect badly on the team and, particularly, the general manager who selected the player. So they test for it, and every year we get to tutt-tutt about the players who can't stay off the green long enough to earn some.
What about the players who drink to excess, though? Anyone who has been on a college campus is familiar with that hardy pastime, a pastime which nobody takes particularly seriously and is totally legal. Booze leads to a lot more ugly situations than pot, though. Ask Leonard Little and Donte Stallworth, or better yet ask the families of the people they killed while driving drunk. Pacman Jones and Plaxico Burress were out drinking when they ran afoul of the league and the law and many of the items that make up the NFL's enormous police blotter were fueled by alcohol.
Any player who tests positive at the combine is stupid, plain and simple, but the idea that you're rooting out all the character red flags by testing for pot is just as stupid.
Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.