From the league office comes this week's episode of "how can we appear even more stupid than we did last week?" This time, it's starring former Packers special teams ace and occasionally acceptable cornerback, Jarrett Bush.
Bush learned today that he was suspended for four games to start the 2015 season.
As for the conduct leading to the suspension, ESPN's Rob Demovsky reports that it resulted from a violation of the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy. Typically, four-game bans are the result of a failed drug test.
Now, a four-game ban is a small-ish deal if your name is Tom Brady. It's a huge one if, like Bush, you're a middle-of-the-road corner without a team on the wrong side of 30 and trying to earn a tryout with an NFL team during training camp. But what makes Bush's suspension so ridiculous isn't even the length - after all, the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs is pretty cut-and-dried and four-game suspensions are the norm. It's that it was announced on the same day that the suspension for Greg Hardy - a guy who was convicted in a bench trial of beating and threatening to kill his girlfriend before having those charges dropped during the appeal process because the accuser failed to appear before the court - was reduced to....wait for it....four friggin' games.
It's been pretty obvious for some time now that the league's tolerance on player conduct is heavily influenced by PR - for example, does anyone remember the awful, ‘No More' campaign? To that end, contrasting the reduction in Hardy's suspension to those of players testing positive for PEDs illustrates just how clueless the league is handling these different types of offenses.
Bush tested positive for a drug banned by the NFL - something that could be anything from Adderall to steroids - while the charges Hardy was initially convicted of included dragging his battered girlfriend by her hair, threatening to kill her, and tossing her onto A PILE OF RIFLES.
In the league's eyes, these are the same two things.
Bush can probably appeal his suspension, but it almost certainly doesn't matter. Training camps start in two weeks and few teams are looking to pick up a journeyman special teams player with a four game suspension hanging over his head. The league's PR machine meanwhile, will continue to spin Hardy as contrite, and humbled, and "taking responsibility" for his actions moving forward. Such is the difference between a try-hard defensive back and a Pro Bowl pass-rusher.
Ultimately, the conduct Bush is being punished for here wasn't anything violent, and depending on what drug he tested positive for, it very well might not have been illegal. He's punished for not being better at football.
UPDATE: This article initially addressed the idea that Jarrett Bush's suspension was a result of his public intoxication arrest earlier this offseason. Demovsky's report that it resulted from a violation of the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy was published shortly after the original version of this article was posted. It has been updated to reflect the details of that report.