tampabay.com

League suspends Bucs' Cox

The cornerback violated the NFL's substance-abuse policy.

By STEPHEN F. HOLDER
Published July 4, 2007


TAMPA - Bucs reserve cornerback Torrie Cox on Tuesday was suspended for four games without pay by the NFL for violating its substance-abuse policy, the league announced.

The substance that landed Cox in the league's substance-abuse program to begin with apparently is not an illegal drug, but likely alcohol, something that has long been an issue with Cox.

"I can assure you that this has nothing to do with illegal narcotics, " his agent, Peter Schaffer, said from Denver. "I love him. He's a great kid."

Schaffer declined to elaborate, citing the league's stance that specifics about those in the program remain confidential. The league and the franchise will not comment on the matter. But Schaffer suggested that a look at Cox's history would help answer some questions. Cox, 26, has twice been charged with DUI since 2004, the second time earning him a one-game suspension handed down by the Bucs in 2005. It also was a violation of probation. Adjudication was withheld on all charges.

The latest suspension means Cox will be eligible to participate in training camp and play in all preseason games, but he will be prohibited from practicing with the team once his suspension begins on Aug. 31. He is eligible to return to the active roster on Oct. 1, which would allow him to play at Indianapolis on Oct. 7. Based on his base salary of $595, 027, Cox will have to forfeit about $140, 006.

He also could pay a price on the field. The special teams ace figured to be in the mix for the vacant nickelback job, competing with Phillip Buchanon and others. But this setback might prevent him from getting a legitimate shot at the job, at least for a while.

The Bucs could also decide to part ways with Cox, though for now it appears they will not make any immediate decisions regarding his future. "We are hopeful that Torrie Cox can overcome this personal setback, " general manager Bruce Allen said in a statement.

To do so, Cox will have to stay straight. A four-game suspension comes when a player in Stage 2 commits a violation of the program terms. Under the program's guidelines, players in Stage 2 can be subject to up to 10 urine tests per month for two years. While alcohol is not a banned substance in the NFL, it can be banned for players with past alcohol-related offenses who are made to join the substance-abuse program, according to its terms.

If a player advances to Stage 3 of the program after two violations while in Stage 2, a violation is punished with a minimum one-year suspension.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Stephen F. Holder can be reached at (813) 226-3377 or sholder@sptimes.com.