ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Having spent the past four months showing he’s capable of keeping the effects of Crohn’s disease in check, Bills offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson faces yet another hurdle in attempting to resume his career.
Henderson is appealing the NFL’s four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy after testing positive for marijuana, a person with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed to The Associated Press on Wednesday. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the suspension is being appealed and the NFL has not announced its ruling.
The person said Henderson’s appeal is based on him using marijuana for medicinal purposes to relieve the effects of Crohn’s disease. Henderson was diagnosed with the inflammatory bowel disease late last year, and has since had two operations on his intestines. The first operation occurred in January, when doctors removed a section of diseased tissue. In April, he had surgery to have his intestine reattached.
Several studies have found marijuana can be an effective treatment for people diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
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In New York, the state’s medical marijuana program specifically lists patients diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease as being potentially eligible to obtain medical marijuana.
ESPN.com first reported Henderson was facing a suspension.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league has no comment.
Coach Rex Ryan would only refer to questions regarding Henderson as “a league disciplinary issue,” and directed questions to the NFL.
Ryan said the team and league provides its players several programs in dealing with substance abuse issues.
“Guys have to be accountable and understand that it’s not tolerated,” Ryan added. “If it’s against the rules, it’s against the rules.”
The Bills open the season at Baltimore on Sunday.
Henderson practiced with the second-stringers on Wednesday, and the team did not make him available to the media.
Henderson only resumed practicing a day earlier after missing last week for what Ryan called a medical reason. The absence came after Henderson made his preseason debut by playing 41 of 77 snaps in a 21-16 loss at Washington on Aug. 26.
On Tuesday, Henderson said he’s “feeling normal” and “everything checked out fine.”
He has been required to alter his diet because of the disease, which affects about 1.4 million Americans.
“I definitely appreciate everything that comes with being able to play because it could be gone that fast,” Henderson said, snapping his fingers. “One day I’m in surgery, the next day the doctor’s saying I might not be able to play no more.”
Henderson has been a two-year starter at right tackle since being selected by Buffalo in the seventh round of the 2014 draft. His stock in the draft plummeted after Henderson openly acknowledged he had a history of marijuana use. He tested positive for the drug at the NFL combine in 2014 and he said positive tests led to him being suspended several times at the University of Miami.
The news of Henderson’s possible suspension caught his teammates by surprise.
“Really? I didn’t know that,” running back LeSean McCoy said. “He was out there practicing. Oh, wow.”
Guard Richie Incognito was informed of the news while coming off the field after practice.
“He’s battled back. He’s had to come back from a lot of adversity,” Incognito said. “I know he’s been working hard. I know he’s been making sacrifices.”
The possible suspension is but the latest NFL disciplinary action the Bills have had to deal with this offseason.
Last month, starting defensive tackle Marcell Dareus said he was checking into a rehab facility after being suspended for the first four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy for a second straight year.
Backup running back Karlos Williams faced the same suspension before he was cut three weeks ago. The Bills last week released linebacker Manny Lawson, who was being investigated by the NFL on whether he violated the league’s player personal conduct policy.