New York Jets defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd played every game his rookie year and passed every drug test. He says he had never knowingly taken a banned substance before this past offseason, and certainly never to gain a competitive advantage in a game.
Shepherd has been suspended six games for two separate violations of the performance-enhancing drug policy. The suspension will begin immediately. He will be eligible to return to the active roster on Monday, Oct. 28.
The two failed tests came on June 27 and July 25, while Shepherd was recovering from a shoulder injury that might eventually require surgery as well as a groin injury that resulted in a delay with his offseason training. While rehabbing for the shoulder, he underwent an MRI on his groin that revealed he needed sports hernia surgery. His hunched posture for several weeks after that procedure led to a herniated L4-L5 disc in his back, severely limiting his ability to train at a time he was eager to impress the Jets' new regime.
"All that was going on, I was coming off of a subpar season and a new coaching staff, new playbook, new everything," Shepherd said. "In my mindset, I didn't feel very confident with how everything had gone thus far. In my mind, I was so prepared to come into this offseason and have a successful offseason and train very hard. I felt that because of these limitations, I wasn't going to be able to do that. I made a rash decision, an unwise decision and a selfish decision to look to certain PEDs in order to help me with that recovery process so I would be ready to go."
It's an uncommonly direct admission by Shepherd, 25, a third-round draft pick last year out of Fort Hays State whose upbringing in Ajax, Ontario, and unique path to the NFL made him a feel-goal story. Shepherd said he informed the Jets' coaches and front office quickly upon learning of the failed tests three weeks ago. Shepherd said he addressed the rest of the Jets' defensive linemen Monday and apologized for how his absence will impact them.