The NFL has suspended Dallas Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain for the first four games in 2015, saying McClain violated the league’s substance-abuse policy.
McClain already faced a four-game fine for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, and his latest failed drug test led to this four-game suspension.
McClain is able to participate in the Cowboys’ off-season and preseason practices and games, but will miss the first four regular-season games without pay. He is not eligible to return to the active roster until Oct. 5 after the team’s Oct. 4 game against the New Orleans Saints.
McClain’s first game would be against the New England Patriots in Week 5. The 25-year-old apologized for what he called a “mistake” in a statement.
“I will not break the rules of my profession in the future, and I regret my error,” McClain said. “I look forward to returning to the field on week 5, when I hope to help my team beat the Patriots.”
It’s a blow for the Cowboys’ defense, which expected to have McClain as a physical presence in the middle. Second-year pro Anthony Hitchens was the Cowboys’ top replacement when McClain couldn’t go last year, and should be the front-runner to fill the void early on this season.
McClain resurrected his career with the Cowboys last season after flaming out as the eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft by Oakland, retiring twice and sitting out the 2013 season. He finished tied for second in NFL Comeback Player of the Year voting last season with Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, as New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski took the honors.
According to the coaches’ stats, McClain had the second-most tackles on the team with 108 despite missing three regular-season games. He also had nine tackles for loss, two interceptions, one sack, five quarterback pressures, one forced fumble and five passes defended.
With that type of production, the Cowboys kept McClain in the organization by signing him to a one-year, $3 million contract with a base salary of $750,000 and another $1 million in incentives. McClain’s contract also calls for $93,750 each week he is on the 46-man game-day roster.
So this suspension is going to cost McClain at least $551,000 between his base salary ($176,000) and per-game bonuses ($375,000). And it will be hard for him to meet the $1 million in incentives now, too, which don’t kick in unless he plays in at least 65 percent of the team’s defensive snaps.
McClain has had plenty of issues in his short time with the Cowboys.
He battled injuries constantly in his comeback year, something the Cowboys felt was simply him getting back into game shape. He missed the three games with knee and groin injuries, and then an illness before the regular-season finale at Washington. In the playoffs, McClain’s time was limited because of concussion-like symptoms.
McClain also underwent off-season surgery on his right knee, limiting him in last month’s minicamp. The Cowboys hope he’ll be full-go when training camp begins July 28 in Oxnard, Calif.
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760