By Danny O’Neil
Training camp is more than two months away, but the Seahawks suffered their first loss of the season.
Bruce Irvin will be suspended for the first four games of the season, the NFL announced Friday, for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
That’s the cue to begin the hand-wringing, whether it’s about depth at Seattle’s pass-rushing defensive end or the fact that Irvin becomes the fifth Seahawk in three years to be suspended for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
“I want to apologize to my teammates, coaches and Seahawks fans for making a mistake,” Irvin said in a statement released by the Seahawks. “I took a substance that is prohibited in the NFL without a medical exemption. I am extremely disappointed in the poor judgment I showed and take full responsibility for my actions.”
He was not suspended under the league’s policy for substance abuse, which generally requires multiple violations. He was suspended under the policy for a performance-enhancing substance, which is triggered by a single violation.
Irvin’s explanation points to Adderall, an amphetamine that can be prescribed for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. A player will be suspended for testing positive for amphetamines unless he has applied for – and received – a medical-use exemption from the league.
That explanation does not minimize the impact of his suspension nor does it excuse Irvin’s oversight that led to it, especially on a team that became a focal point for the discussion of Adderall when cornerback Richard Sherman had a four-game suspension overturned last season because the testing procedure was not followed.
There is no way to minimize the impact of the suspension either in terms of the loss of Irvin, a player Seattle chose as the first defensive end off the board in 2012, or the misjudgment that led to the suspension.
Irvin’s suspension is a reality check after an offseason of unchecked optimism and acquisition, a reminder of just how fragile a formula for success can be.
Before the news of Irvin’s suspension, the Seahawks had so much depth at defensive end that they were working Irvin at strongside linebacker to see how if it was possible to get him on the field at the same time as returning starter Chris Clemons or Cliff Avril, the defensive end Seattle signed in free agency.
Now, Avril is the only pass-rushing end Seattle can be certain will be available for the season-opener as Clemons is coming off knee surgery to repair a torn ligament suffered in January.
Not only that, but running back Marshawn Lynch has a court hearing in the Bay Area next week on a motion to dismiss a DUI charge he faces there. If that motion is denied, Lynch could face a trial this summer and were he to be convicted, he could face league discipline as well.
None of this news undermines Seattle’s hopes for this season, but it serves as a reminder that 2013 isn’t going to be a parade either. There is going to be adversity. There will be mistakes, and some of those mistakes – like Irvin’s suspension – are going to be maddeningly self-inflicted.