EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Pat Shurmur said it's business as usual as he installs his Giants offense this summer, preparing as if receiver Golden Tate will be in the Opening Day lineup.
But the reality is, he almost certainly won't be.
The 30-year-old Tate may be appealing the four-game suspension he got for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs, but "there's almost no way" his appeal will be successful, according to an NFL source. Multiple other sources agreed, saying the NFL's policy is "unforgiving" and "rigid."
The best Tate could hope for, the sources agreed, is that the suspension gets reduced from four games to three or, even less likely, two. But not everyone agreed that a reduction was even a possibility.
"Everybody has an excuse and they all think it's good," one source said. "But it never matters."
Tate failed a drug test back in April, about a month after signing a four-year, $37.5 million deal with the Giants. When his impending suspension was revealed last week, he released a statement saying he was prescribed a drug by a fertility planning specialist, "and just days later I discovered it contained an ingredient that is on the league's banned substance list."
He said he "immediately discontinued" using it and reported his actions to the independent administrator of the NFL Policy on PEDs. He did that, he said, before he even actually failed a drug test.
"I always assume the best"- Giants Videos (@SNYGiants) July 30, 2019
Pat Shurmur and Golden Tate are preparing as if he'll play Week 1, but he's ready to make the necessary adjustments pic.twitter.com/5ZLy2YzJMZ
If all that is true, it may seem reasonable and it sounds like Tate did everything right after discovering his error - which might help him as he makes his case for a reduction in the suspension. But the NFL's drug policy clearly states that "Players are responsible for what is in their bodies and a positive test will not be excused because a Player was unaware that he was taking a Prohibited Substance." There's even an 800-number that players can call to see if a substance is OK to take.
"He may have done everything right after he took it, and it may have been an innocent mistake," said one NFL agent. "No one will care. The drug policy is unforgiving."
There's even a precedent for Tate's case that won't help him at all. In 2014, Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis failed a drug test and claimed it was because he was taking Clomid, a fertility drug, because he and his wife were trying to have another child. He did not inform the NFL until he tested positive. In the end, his suspension wasn't reduced at all.
It's not known if Clomid was the drug that Tate was taking, but Clomid is considered a performance-enhancing drug. Among other things, it can enhance testosterone levels, which could boost performance on its own. Also, it could counteract the effects of anabolic steroid use, which can lower testosterone levels.
That's why it's on the NFL's list of banned substances. Even so, Tate could have applied for a Therapeutic Use Exemption with the NFL to use Clomid or any other fertility drug, though it's unclear if that request would have been granted. The fact that he didn't, though, almost guarantees that he will have to serve at least part of his suspension after the appeal is heard.
The Giants, according to a team source, understand that and are hopeful, but not optimistic that Tate's suspension will be reduced. In the meantime, Tate is allowed to practice during training camp and play in all the Giants' preseason games. And Shurmur sounds like he will keep going with Tate in the lineup, until he's not.
"He's out here training like he's going to be there Week 1, so the issues of the day don't change," Shurmur said on Tuesday. "I always assume the best. It's just like anything, when all of a sudden you don't have a player, then you make the adjustments."