Blue and Gold Illustrated

Dec 19, 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 50 of 55 DEC. 19, 2020 51 IRISH IN THE PROS BY ANDREW MENTOCK W ill Fuller V dazzled Houston fans on Thanksgiving, snagging six catches for 171 yards and two touch‑ downs in the Texans' commanding 41‑25 win over the Detroit Lions. This performance put him in the NFL's top 10 for both receiving yards (879, 10th) and touchdowns (eight, tied for seventh). With a 4‑7 record, the Texans had a minuscule chance of reaching the playoffs. Still, the positive vibes amongst Fuller and his teammates appeared to be at a season high after beating the Lions, their third win in their last four games. This occurred after significant turmoil earlier in the season, when Houston fired head coach Bill O'Brien four games into the season. "All the momentum is good mo‑ mentum, especially with what's been going on with this organization and this team," Texans quarterback De‑ Shaun Watson said after the victory over the Lions. "The momentum is good momentum and that's what we've been fighting for and working toward." But the next day, the momentum turned sour when news broke that Fuller was effectively done for the season after getting suspended six games for violating the NFL's perfor‑ mance‑enhancing drug (PED) policy. "Earlier this year, I sought treat‑ ment from a medical professional who prescribed medication that he believed to be permitted under the NFL's drug policy," Fuller wrote in a post on his Instagram account. "As it turns out, my trust in this profes‑ sional was misplaced because this medication was NOT a permitted substance under the NFL Policy on Performance Enhancing Substances. As a result of this mistake, I have been suspended for six games for taking this prohibited medication. "I want to sincerely apologize to the Texans organization and all of my fans for this mistake. I am look‑ ing forward to putting this all behind me and returning better than ever in 2021." This news is made even more un‑ fortunate given that he was in the midst of the healthiest season of his five‑year NFL career. Fuller had played in each of the Texans' first 11 games this year. His current ca‑ reer mark for games played is 14 as a rookie, followed by 10‑, seven‑ and 11‑game seasons. His explanation for taking the prohibited medication is similar to what New York Giants wide receiver Golden Tate offered when he was suspended four games at the start of 2019, also for taking a banned sub‑ stance. Tate actually appealed his sus‑ pension, but was ultimately denied. Fuller is in the midst of the final year of his contract with the Texans and is expected to become an unre‑ stricted free agent after the season. With five games left on the 2020 schedule, his suspension will carry over to the first game of next season. COVID-19 IMPACTING FORMER IRISH PLAYERS As COVID‑19 cases surged across the United States in late November and early December, several NFL franchises experienced outbreaks of their own, among them the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. This caused the Week 12 matchup between the two AFC North fran‑ chises to be pushed back from Thanksgiving Day to the following Tuesday. Steelers wide receiver Chase Clay‑ pool took to Twitter to express his frus‑ tration regarding the first postpone‑ ment and wrote, "What a joke …" The game was ultimately pushed back once again and played on a Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 2. Claypool and Ravens wide receiver Miles Boykin ultimately played in the game, but absent from the con‑ test was a well‑known former Notre Dame player, Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt, one of the NFL's top pass rushers. He had been added to the team's COVID‑19 reserve list. The postponement of this game will also impact future matchups. The Ravens' Week 13 game against the Dallas Cowboys, a franchise that features two former Irish players in linebacker Jaylon Smith and offen‑ sive lineman Zack Martin, will now be played on Tuesday, Dec. 8. Another former Notre Dame player, running back Theo Riddick of the Las Vegas Raiders, was added to the COVID‑19 list in November. However, he recently cleared proto‑ cols and returned to the active roster on Dec. 2. ✦ Fuller was tied for seventh in the NFL in touch- down catches (eight) and was eighth in receiving yards (879) before being hit with a six-game sus- pension that will sideline him for the remainder of the 2020 season. PHOTO COURTESY HOUSTON TEXANS Will Fuller Suspended For Violating The NFL's PED Policy NOTRE DAME IN THE NFL: WEEK 13 HIGHLIGHTS • Josh Adams (Played at Notre Dame from 2015-17), RB, New York Jets: Carried the ball eight times for 74 yards in the 0-12 Jets' 31-28 loss to the Raiders … Has 12 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown in four games played this season. • Cole Kmet (2017-19), TE, Chicago Bears: Recorded five catches for 37 yards and a touchdown in the 5-7 Bears' 34-30 loss to the Lions … On the season, has eight catches for 131 yards and two scores. • Romeo Okwara (2012-15), DE, Detroit Lions: Recorded four tackles (two for loss)m a sack, a forced fumble and two quarterback hits in the 5-7 Lions' 34-30 win over the Bears … Through 12 contests, has 35 tackles (10 for loss), seven sacks (16th in NFL), 16 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and one pass defended.

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