Losing David Onyemata for any length of time will be a tough break for the New Orleans Saints, but that’s where they’re headed after the defensive tackle announced Friday morning that he is facing a suspension “for part of the 2021 NFL season” following a positive test result for a banned substance.
But it could take some time before we know what Onyemata tested positive for, meaning no one knows exactly how long he could be suspended. The new NFL-NFLPA collective bargaining agreement differentiates between performance-enhancing drugs.
Under the new CBA, players who fail a test for stimulants or diuretics must miss two games (five games for a second violation), while a first failed test for steroids would mean a six-game suspension (and all 17 games for a second failed test). According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, “manipulation and or substitution and use of a prohibited substance” nets an eight-game suspension.
So in the best case scenario, Onyemata only misses the first two matchups against the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers. At worst, he could lose six or eight games, meaning he won’t be available until after New Orleans’ Week 6 bye.
On top of all this, we still don’t know if Marshon Lattimore will be suspended following his offseason arrest in Cleveland. The Saints could potentially face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers without their best defensive tackle and their top cornerback. That’s obviously not ideal.
It’s complicated by Onyemata’s single-game suspension in 2019 for violating the NFL’s marijuana policy at the time, which was rewritten under the new CBA. Punishments under the league’s previous substance-abuse policy should not impact the current policy for performance-enhancing drugs, but it’s a murky situation given the lack of details. Stay tuned as more information becomes available.