Will Hill third former Florida Gators player to receive NFL suspension for ADHD medication

In the middle of what could only have been considered an epic career turnaround, New York Giants safety Will Hill learned Monday that he has been suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Hill released an official statement immediately following the NFL’s announcement explaining that the suspension is for using Adderall, a drug used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder that was prescribed to him by a doctor before he was picked up by New York as an undrafted free agent this summer.

“I received a doctor’s prescription for Adderall prior to signing with the Giants. Shortly after signing with the team, I was in a meeting with [director of player development] Charles Way, who reviewed the list of the league’s banned substances. I knew at that point that this may be an issue. I was tested and the results came back that Adderall was in my system. I appealed but lost the appeal. I accept full responsibility for this situation, and it won’t happen again. The Giants have given me a great opportunity when nobody else would, and I don’t take that for granted. I feel badly this has happened. I will work hard and stay in great shape these next four weeks so I can come back and contribute to this team after my suspension.”

Hill was undrafted after leaving the Florida Gators as a junior in 2011 due to a combination of immaturity and his use of illegal drugs, namely marijuana. He went a long way to fixing that negative reputation over the last year and was signed by the Giants after wowing the team with his character off the field and ability on the field.

Ironically enough, Hill’s suspension comes on the same day that fellow former Florida defensive back Joe Haden, now a member of the Cleveland Browns, completed his four-game suspension for using the same substance.

Haden was found with Adderall in his system during a preseason test but unlike Hill never had a prescription for the drug. He allegedly used it as an upper during an offseason vacation in Las Vegas, NV.

“I would like to apologize to my fans, Haden Nation, the Cleveland Browns organization, front office, all the coaches. I hurt a lot of people. I hurt myself for sure. But I hurt a lot of people with the decision I made, and I just want everybody to know that I sincerely apologize from the bottom of my heart,” he said Monday, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “There’s no script. Nobody told me what to say. I just feel that and I want everybody to know that it was a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes, but my mistake happened to hurt a lot more people than I thought.”

Haden and Hill join New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes as three former Gators that have received NFL suspensions over the last three years for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substance. Spikes was suspended for the final four games of his rookie season in 2010 after testing positive for an ingredient that was contained in his ADHD medication.

Hill will be eligible to return to New York’s active roster on Nov. 5.

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FOUR BITS: Gaffney, Brewer, LaCaze, ESPNU

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, an 11-year NFL veteran who was cut by the New England Patriots during the preseason, signed with the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday and officially joined his fifth professional franchise. Gaffney has only missed five regular season games while employed (all in 2006) and is the type of durable, veteran presence that Miami has desperately needed. He is also coming off the best two years production-wise. Gaffney set career-highs with 65 receptions for 875 yards with Denver in 2010 and eclipsed those numbers with 68 receptions for 947 yards (and a career-high-tying five touchdowns) with Washington last season.

2 » Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (and some of his teammates) made their acting debuts this year by making cameos as football players during the acclaimed film “The Dark Knight Rises.” As it turns out, Denver Nuggets guard/forward Corey Brewer will also be featured in a movie though his is set to be released on Jan. 25, 2013. In a new trailer for the ensemble comedy “Movie 43” released by Comedy Central, Brewer is shown as a basketball player being coached up by Terrence Howard. The film – which features a start-studded cast including names like Hugh Jackman, Gerard Butler, Richard Gere, Uma Thurman and Kate Winslet (along with some well-known comedy stars) – will undoubtedly receive at least an R rating for language, nudity, sexual situations, etc. The “red band” trailer below, which features a line from Brewer, contains adult content and explicit language. (Hat tip to John B.)

3 » It appears as if Florida has added a second competitor from the 2012 London Olympics to its coaching staffs as former Gators steeplechaser Genevieve LaCaze announced on Twitter that she has signed up to be a volunteer coach with the track & field program. LaCaze, who raced for Australia but did not medal in the Olympics, joins British swimmer and world record holder Gemma Spofforth, who was announced as a volunteer assistant by Florida last week. Spofforth, who graduated in 2010, competed in two Olympics and is now retired from the sport. LaCaze graduated this past spring and is planning to make a go of it for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

4 » ESPNU on Tuesday aired a special All Access program that took a look at the Gators football team as it worked through its bye last week. If you missed the show, ESPN informed OGGOA that it will re-air twice more this week on Oct. 5 at 4:30 p.m. and Oct. 7 at 6:30 a.m. Though the program did not provide much in the way of new information (similar clips have been featured in previous ESPN specials), it was an interesting look behind the scenes this season.

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FOUR BITS: Hernandez, Muschamp, soccer, volley

1 » Only two weeks into the 2012 NFL regular season and a second former Florida Gators offensive starter has gone down with a serious injury. New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who had six receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, got rolled up on during his team’s game on Sunday and seriously injured his ankle. Though the exact injury has not been announced publicly, it is believed that Hernandez suffered a high-ankle sprain as tests after the game revealed that he did not break any bones. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported Sunday that the Patriots are expecting Hernandez to be out up to six weeks, a timeframe consistent with a high-ankle sprain (as was the fact that he left the stadium on crutches with his foot/ankle in a protective boot). Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) last week and will miss the rest of the season.

2 » A fan video posted on YouTube after the now-No. 14 Florida Gators defeated the Tennessee Volunteers happened to catch head coach Will Muschamp celebrating. Check him and all of his Gator Chomps out below (you can skip to 0:30 if you wish):

3 » Since OGGOA’s last update on the team, Florida women’s soccer has remained somewhat average, now boasting a 4-3-1 (1-1-0 SEC) record just two games into league play. The Gators defeated New Mexico 3-2 at home on Sept. 9 to close out their non-conference schedule and split a pair of weekend road matches. Florida fell 2-1 to the Kentucky Wildcats (6-1-0, 1-0-0 SEC) on Friday, taking an early 1-0 advantage with a goal from redshirt senior forward McKenzie Barney at 13’ but allowing UK to score two unanswered goals (one in each half) on their way to victory. The Gators did just the opposite on Sunday, coming back from an early 1-0 deficit to force overtime and win just 10 minutes into the period. Florida took a 2-1 overtime victory over the Auburn Tigers (4-5-0, 0-2-0 SEC) thanks to strikes from senior midfielder Holly King (73’) and junior F Adriana Leon (100’). UF will now look to rely on some home cooking as the Gators host four-straight matches over the next two weekends.

4 » OGGOA was equally negligent in covering volleyball last week though No. 13 Florida (8-2, 2-0 SEC) has rattled off five-straight wins over the last two weekends. The Gators won the self-hosted Active Ankle Challenge in dominant fashion with big victories over the Jacksonville Dolphins (3-0: 25-18, 25-11, 25-11), Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (3-1: 25-15, 25-14, 23-25, 25-12) and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-1: 22-25, 25-15, 25-21, 25-22). On the Georgia Tech roster is former UF head coach Urban Meyer’s daughter Nicki Meyer, who registered 11 digs for GT.

Florida began league play this past weekend with a pair of road victories. The Gators earned a hard-fought 3-2 victory (23-25, 25-22, 25-22, 19-25, 15-13) over the Arkansas Razorbacks (9-3, 0-1 SEC) on Friday before putting together a dominant 3-0 sweep (25-21, 25-14, 25-18) of the No. 24 Kentucky Wildcats (6-5, 0-1 SEC) on Sunday. Junior middle back Chloe Mann led the way with a combined 25 kills on the weekend, but senior right side Tangerine Wiggs was equally impressive with a combined 23 kills of her own. Florida will host Missouri on Friday in their only action this week.

Extra BITS » Two OGGOA readers sent in pictures this week. The first, by baker Reuben Romney, is a cake he sold to a Florida State fan with orange and blue cake on the inside (they laughed). The second, by Ray, is a graphic representation of the nickname Hot Light Hammond, in reference to redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr.‘s play making and love for Krispy Kreme donuts.

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FOUR BITS: Texas A&M, Haden, Schutte, Paco

1 » With the Florida Gators’ game against the Texas A&M Aggies under 48 hours away, now is as good of a time as ever to check on ESPN College GameDay’s promotional video for the contest set for Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

2 » Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren announced on Tuesday that cornerback Joe Haden has indeed been suspended by the NFL for failing the league’s banned substance policy (testing positive for Adderall); however, he is set to play in the team’s season opener on Sunday and every game from that point forward until his already-filed appeal is ruled on by the league. Haden’s suspension, should it be enacted after the NFL reviews his appeal, will be for four games. He would at that time become the second former Gators player in the last three years to receive a suspension for violating that policy as New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes missed the last four games of his rookie season in 2010 after testing positive for an ingredient that was contained in his ADHD medication.

3 » Florida catcher Brittany Schutte, who missed most of the 2012 season after suffering a broken jaw early in the campaign, has decided to skip her final season with the team in order to move on and coach softball at the Oak Hall School in Gainesville, FL. According to Oak Hill, Schutte recently informed Gators head coach Tim Walton that she will not return to the team and “is shifting interest in her academic career with hopes of becoming an educator.” Her departure is a major loss for a Florida team that saw a huge star graduate and suffered three other major defections last season. The Gators lost senior centerfielder Michelle Moultrie and saw sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle as well as sisters Kasey Fagan and Sami Fagan leave the program after Walton suspended all three during the opening portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. In her first two years with the team, Schutte hit .335 with 41 home runs, 128 RBIs, 118 runs, 83 walks and 82 stolen bases. She also slugged .751 and fielded her position at a .989 clip. Schutte’s departure, coupled with Moultrie’s graduation and the three transfers, leaves the Gators without five of their best players heading into the 2013 season.

4 » Former Florida left-handed pitcher Steven Rodriguez, selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the No. 82 overall pick in the second round of the 2012 MLB Draft, became the first player from that draft to be called up to the majors when Los Angeles brought him into the fold on Wednesday. Rodriguez, who was always thought to be a player who might be in this situation, was dominant in the minors, posting a 0.92 ERA with 32 strikeouts and six walks in 19 2/3 innings over 21 games. “Everybody here’s been great to me,” he told MLB.com this week. “Now I’ve got to perform. I’ve got to get over it. But on the mound, looking up at all the decks, the biggest place I’ve ever played before was Omaha and they only have two decks.”

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Cut day a mixed bag for six former Gators

NFL franchises were forced to reduce their rosters to 53 players on Friday as the 2012 regular season draws closer. Six former Florida Gators were impacted by decisions their respective teams made with the results different for each player.

Receiving the good news were New York Giants safety Will Hill and Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Deonte Thompson, a pair of undrafted free agents who performed so well in training camp and during a preseason that they earned roster spots on their respective teams.

Hill, who went undrafted in 2011 and did not play in the NFL last season, was signed early in the offseason by the Giants and impressed the coaching staff so much (both on and off the field) that he will not only make the team but also see extensive playing time. He registered 15 tackles (12 solo) and a sack in four preseason games.

Thompson joined the Ravens along with former Gators quarterback John Brantley, who was cut early in the offseason. He led Baltimore in receptions, receiving yards in the first and fourth preseason games (scoring a touchdown in each) and had kickoff returns of 42 yards and 63 yards in the two games in-between.

Dealt the first bit of negative news was New England Patriots running back Jeff Demps, whose season is over after the team placed him on injured reserve. Demps signed with the Patriots two weeks ago and played in the team’s final two preseason games. He took nine carries for 55 yards, caught three balls for 31 yards, returned three kicks for 63 yards and brought back five punts for 65 yards.

He supposedly injured his knee during practice, but it was not at all believed to be serious. New England placing him on injured reserves keeps him under the team’s control (he signed a three-year contract) and gives him the entire season and offseason to get into football shape and learn the playbook. The move is basically a way of stashing a player by circumventing the waiver wire process.

Though New York decided to keep Hill, the Giants chose to part ways with veteran defensive tackle Marcus Thomas on Friday. Thomas signed a one-year deal on Aug. 16 but has now been cut just two weeks later and will look to catch on with another team.

Also looking for new homes now are tight end Cornelius Ingram, who spent the entire offseason with the Denver Broncos but was cut loose on Friday, and linebacker Brandon Hicks, who was hoping to catch on with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Other prominent Florida players who are also currently free agents include Brantley, wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, DT Gerard Warren, tackle Phil Trautwein, defensive end Bobby McCray, DE Derrick Harvey, DE Jarvis Moss, DE Justin Trattou and cornerback Lito Sheppard. LB Andra Davis and RB Earnest Graham are close to retirement.

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Patriots ink TE Hernandez to huge extension

When tight end Rob Gronkowski received a contract extension from the New England Patriots this offseason, it became apparent to many that the team was going to try to get the most they could out of former Florida Gators TE Aaron Hernandez without signing him to a similar extension that would lock him up long-term.

That widely-held opinion was proved worthless on Monday when New England and Hernandez agreed to a five-year extension worth a maximum value of $40 million including a $12.5 million signing bonus and $16 million in guaranteed money.

What helped get the deal together was Hernandez’s willingness to play out the final two years of his rookie contract without having his salary increased. He is set to earn $644,000 in 2012 and $1.523 million in 2013 (including all guaranteed and non-guaranteed monies). The Patriots agreed to enhance his earnings those years by paying out his signing bonus over three seasons ($6 million immediately, $3.25 million in 2013, $3.25 million in 2014), giving him major compensation for being willing to compromise.

Hernandez will then earn $1.7 million in 2014 (not including his signing bonus), $3.3 million in 2015, $6 million in 2016 and $7 million in 2017 and 2018. Those numbers include $500,000 in annual offseason workout bonuses and $500,000 in annual roster bonuses (2015-2018). He will also receive an additional $500,000 every season he is named to the Pro Bowl.

Once he signed the extension, Hernandez immediately donated $50,000 to owner Robert Kraft’s charity while at a gala on Monday.

“One of the touching moments since I’ve known the team — knowing that this is our charitable gala tonight — Aaron came into my office, a little teary-eyed and presented me with a check for $50,000 to go to Myra Kraft Giving Back Fund,” Kraft told ESPNBoston.com. “I said ‘Aaron, you don’t have to do this, you’ve already got your contract.’ And he said ‘No, it makes me feel good and I want to do it.'”

Hernandez spoke with multiple outlets about his donation and relationship with Kraft.

“He changed my life,” Hernandez said of Kraft. “Now, I’m able to basically have a good chance to be set for life and have a good life and I have a daughter on the way [Nov. 12], and I have a family that I love.

“It’s just knowing that they’re going to be OK, because I was happy playing for $250,000, $400,000. But knowing that my kids and my family will be able to have a good life, go to college, it’s just an honor that he did that for me. He gave me this opportunity. So the $50,000 to help his foundation, obviously it’s basically saying ‘thank you’. […]

“He didn’t need to give me the amount that he gave me, and knowing that he thinks I deserve that, he trusts me to make the right decisions, it means a lot. It means he trusts my character, and the person I am, which means a lot, cause my mother, that’s how she wanted to raise me.”

Hernandez’s extension may not be as rich as Gronkowski’s (six years, $53 million), but he was not in the same situation as his teammate, who was selected two rounds and 71 picks ahead of Hernandez in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Gronkowski had one of the best seasons for a tight end in NFL history in 2011, catching 11 more passes than Hernandez (90-79), registering 417 more receiving yards (1,327-910) and hauling in 10 more touchdowns (17-7) on the same team.

Word out of training camp this offseason, however, is that those numbers could wind up switching around very soon as Hernandez is quickly becoming quarterback Tom Brady’s top target in the passing game.

He is also being used more extensively by New England, taking handoffs in the backfield and even being used rarely as a punt returner on special teams.

That is why Hernandez is actually due more money (and will receive more guaranteed money) in the first four years of his contract than Gronkowski, according to the Boston Globe’s Greg A. Bedard, who also reports that the extension is “the second-richest for a tight end in league history, and the signing bonus is the highest ever at the position.”

Hernandez told MassLive.com that he’s thrilled to be a member of the Patriots for life and that he is appreciative of the organization for turning his life around.

“This is a place that not only did change my future from them paying me, but it just changed me as a person,” he said. “You can’t come here and act reckless and do your own stuff. I was one of the persons that I came here, I might’ve acted the way I wanted to act, but you changed by Bill Belichick’s way. You get changed by the Patriots’ way. Now that I’m a Patriot, I have to start living like one, and making the right decisions for them.”

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FOUR BITS: Patriots, WWE, Fallon, Tebow

1 » New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, whose team now has six former Florida Gators on its roster after signing running back Jeff Demps last week, explained Thursday why he has picked up so many players from the team over the years.

Via the Boston Herald.

“First of all, obviously, Florida has a lot of good football players. It’s a great football state. The University of Florida has great athletes and great players at their school, as do a lot of the other Florida schools. I had a good relationship with Coach [Urban] Meyer, as I do with Coach [Will] Muschamp, so maybe we had a little more insight or opportunity to evaluate or whatever. And we felt like those particular players that we drafted there fit our system and what we were doing. Now, not everybody worked out. Some worked out better than others. But that particular class — the [Jermaine] Cunningham, [Brandon] Spikes, [Tim] Tebow, [Aaron] Hernandez, [Percy] Harvin the year before that, [David] Nelson, the receiver [Riley] Cooper — those guys in those couple years there. For whatever reason, [Meyer] asked me to speak at a clinic. Charlie [Weis] was there last year.

“So I just had a little more opportunity to interact with those players in that school, and they were available at the particular times that we were drafting and so forth. Some of it was coincidence. Some of it was maybe a little more homework in a player like Aaron Hernandez, that talent-wise obviously should have been drafted a little higher than what he was, but we were comfortable with Aaron and taking him the time we did. That’s worked out pretty well for us, so sometimes that little bit extra getting to know the player, the person and so forth can come into play. You never know in the draft process. You just never know how it’s going to go.

“Certainly, coincidence is a part of it. Demps, we didn’t really — the guy was running track, so the way it turned out this year, a lot of that was coincidence. It wasn’t that big of a plan, but we’re happy we have the opportunity to work with Jeff and see how it goes.”

2 » On the latest edition of the WWE’s YouTube program Outside the Ring, former Florida defensive end Thaddeus Bullard (known by his wrestling name of Titus O’Neil, one half of The Prime Time Players) takes tag team partner Darren Young on a tour of UF. The duo check out some major sites on campus, visit the athletic facilities, meet with Muschamp and Billy Donovan and do some Gator Chomps along the way.

3 » Model-turned-television host Tyra Banks was a guest on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on Tuesday and participated in a skit called Brainstorm in which one person (Banks) gives an answer and another (Fallon) provides the humorous question afterward. The first two answer-question segments on the skit had to do with former Gators, namely Tebow and Olympian Ryan Lochte.

4 » Speaking of Tebow, he was a guest on the WFAN radio show co-hosted by former New York Jets quarterback Boomer Esiason on Thursday but did not get the verbal beat down in person that Esiason has previously provided him with over the airwaves. Esiason previously said that, if he were a member of the Jets front office, he would cut Tebow because he does not benefit the team in any way. On Thursday, however, he was mostly complimentary of Tebow while lobbing him some softball questions that the player, of course, knocked out of the park.

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FOUR BITS: Demps, Haden, Beal, Smith

1 » Now a member of the New England Patriots after signing with the team last week, former Florida Gators running back Jeff Demps told reporters Wednesday that “getting back into football shape” is going to be the toughest part of his return to the game. “I’m a football player first,” he said. “I’m used to jumping right into it, coming off of track season. It was basically like the same transition [as it was at Florida], but guys were a lot bigger.” Demps said that working with former Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was a plus because some of the Patriots’ playbook is familiar to him though he still has a ways to go. He noted Wednesday that he has not picked up a football since the 2012 Gator Bowl on Jan. 1 and that the presence of tight end Aaron Hernandez, linebacker Brandon Spikes and defensive end Jermaine Cunningham on the team helped make his decision easier. “It played a good role,” he said. “I knew some of the faces. They took me in like they did when I was at Florida. It was a good thing.”

It was reported on Tuesday by NFL.com’s Bryan McIntyre that Demps received an $11,000 signing bonus from New England as well as a first-year salary of $390,000 of which $200,000 is guaranteed. “The total of $211,000 in guaranteed money is the second-largest sum given to a 2012 undrafted free agent,” he explained. His salary in years two and three of his deal has not been reported.

2 » Already mired in controversy regarding a potential four-game suspension for his alleged use of Adderall in the offseason, Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden was “removed from practice” on Wednesday after getting in a heated exchange with head coach Pat Shurmur. According to ESPNCleveland.com, the website for the city’s local ESPN Radio affiliates, Haden was “too rough with rookie [wide] receiver Travis Benjamin” during practice. “Haden had been warned about pulling jerseys” and got into an argument with Shurmur after “[dragging] down Benjamin in the end zone during a red zone drill.” The coach refused to talk about the situation afterward, simply saying that he has “a great deal of respect for Joe” who he called “a great competitor” who he appreciates for his work ethic and character on and off the field.

3 » Washington Wizards first-round draft choice and No. 3 overall pick Bradley Beal is set to begin practicing with his team in five weeks but told the Washington Post on Wednesday that he is not heading into training camp expecting anything in particular as it pertains to his role on the team. “I want to just come in and try to earn everything,” he said. “I don’t want anything given to me. I want to earn everything and show these guys that I’m a hard worker and I’m a winner. You know we have a young team, but we have a few vets as well and I just want to come in and try to set the tone and try to get this team back on a winning pace.”

4 » Former Florida running back Emmitt Smith, despite feeling healthy as of press time, told SportingNews this week that he is worried about winding up where so many former players are health-wise, potentially suffering dementia or other serious brain problems due to being concussed so often while playing in the NFL. “Knowing what has started to come out in terms of the evidence of guys having mental issues right now, it concerns me, especially when you’ve carried the football more than anybody in the National Football League and have more yardage than anybody in the National Football League,” he said. “That means I probably got hit more than anyone in the National Football League, so why shouldn’t I be concerned?”

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