FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Atlanta Falcons cornerback Jalen Collins, who started in Super Bowl LI against the New England Patriots, has been suspended without pay for the first 10 games of the 2017 regular season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substance.
The league made the announcement Sunday, hours after Collins nearly intercepted a pass at the end of practice. It marks the second consecutive year Collins has violated the same league policy. He served a four-game suspension without pay at the beginning of last season.
“We are extremely disappointed that for the second straight season we are dealing with a suspension for Jalen. Such are the consequences when certain choices are made. Our decisions going forward will be based on what [coach] Dan [Quinn] and I feel is best for the team,” general manager Thomas Dimitroff said in a statement.
Collins is allowed to take part in the Falcons’ preseason practices and games. The Falcons have their first preseason game at Miami on Thursday. It’s unclear whether Collins will play in the game.
Collins, who filled in for injured Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant for half of last season, was not expected to retain a starting spot with Trufant back from a pectoral injury and Robert Alford the other starting corner. However, Collins’ demotion to the third team to start training camp was a red flag.
When asked about the demotion last week and if it had anything to do with being in trouble with the league, Collins told ESPN, “It’s nothing like that. It’s strictly just trying to get guys with a little less experience, trying to get those guys their reps.”
Quinn didn’t immediately announce any discipline forthcoming for Collins, with teams not typically at liberty to comment on such matters. Quinn said Collins’ limited reps and demotion was a coaching decision.
Now the Falcons have to figure out how to proceed without the 2015 second-round pick from LSU. Collins will be eligible to return to the Falcons’ active roster on Nov. 21 following the team’s Nov. 20 game at Seattle. By then, he might not be needed on the 53-man roster. His trade value likely has declined as well because of the suspensions.
The Falcons continue to groom C.J. Goodwin and Deji Olatoye as backups to Trufant and Alford. Nickelback Brian Poole has seen reps outside at corner, as has backup nickelback Blidi Wreh-Wilson. And rookie safety Damontae Kazee played outside at cornerback in college.
Collins started six regular-season games last season in place of Trufant and then started in the postseason. He had 31 tackles, 10 passes defensed and two interceptions during the regular season.
The Falcons took a chance when drafting Collins, who admitted to failing multiple drug tests at LSU, and a number of teams red flagged him as a result of his marijuana use.