With the slowest part of the NFL offseason now underway, one of the only notable sources of breaking news comes via league discipline. Thus is the case with Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Donald Stephenson, who on Friday was slapped with a two-game suspension for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. The Browns announced the suspension, attaching an NFL spokesperson’s official statement:
OL Donald Stephenson has been suspended for the first two games of the 2018 regular season. pic.twitter.com/hjCQuRDCp1— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) June 15, 2018
He will be eligible to return to the Browns’ active roster on September 16th after the team’s Week 2 contest against the New Orleans Saints.
Stephenson was signed to a one-year, $2.5 million contract with $1 million in guaranteed money upon the start of free agency in mid-March. He was initially drafted in Round 3 by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012 and spent the past two seasons with the Denver Broncos. This is not his first suspension; he missed four games in 2014 after violation the NFL’s policy on performance enhancers.
It is unknown if Stephenson will be on the Browns’ roster once the regular season gets underway. Stephenson has yet to show up in Berea, missing both voluntary OTAs as well as this week’s mandatory minicamp. Head coach Hue Jackson has yet to comment in depth on Stephenson’s absence, only saying on Wednesday that, “Obviously, the guy is not here for minicamp. There are fines involved. There are all of those things that we will deal with. At this time, I only want to talk about the guys that are here and working and doing the things that they need to be doing right now.”
The Browns have solid depth on the offensive line, one of whom is Stephenson. He also has a chance to be in the competition for the starting left tackle job. But his unwillingness to practice with his new teammates plus this suspension could make him a long shot to make the 53-man roster, if he even makes it to training camp.