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Tight End Darren Waller Returns, Opens Up About His Suspension

Posted Oct 5, 2016

After serving a four-game suspension for failing a drug test, Darren Waller says he’s learned how to cope with his problems without turning to marijuana. He’s glad to be back on the field, but doesn’t know what’s in store next.

Ravens tight end Darren Waller is back on the field, and he isn’t hiding from his mistakes.

Waller returned to the practice field Wednesday for the first time in about a month, joining his teammates and coaches following a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

“It feels good that they’re excited to have me back,” the 2015 sixth-round pick said. “It feels good to compete. I haven’t had any bodies in front of me to work with for a while now.”

Since Waller was suspended for substance abuse instead of performance enhancing drugs, he was allowed to be around the team during his suspension. He just couldn’t practice with them.

Waller was part of all the meetings and all the game-plan installs. When it came time for practice, he did his own private workout elsewhere at the Under Armour Performance Center.

It’s unclear, however, whether Waller will be around much longer.

The 6-foot-6, 255-pound converted wide receiver has a one-week window to practice with the team without being part of the 53-man roster or practice squad. Once that’s over, the Ravens will have to make a decision on whether to add or release him.

The Ravens promoted tight end Daniel Brown to the 53-man roster Wednesday.

“I’m just preparing as if I’m going to play,” Waller said. “That decision is for coaches and the front office. I’m preparing like I’m going to be out there.”

Waller had a strong training camp and made a good pitch then to be a part of the team moving forward. When it was time to start serving the suspension, he said it was all about how dedicated he would be to continuing his improvement over the four weeks.

“My mind hasn’t been away, my body has been active,” Waller said. “It’s definitely been a productive four weeks.”

Since the suspension, Waller has also been undergoing a mental reevaluation and lifestyle change. He admitted Wednesday that he tested positive for marijuana.

It’s an issue Waller has been dealing with. He had previously been suspended two games during his final season at Georgia Tech (2014) for violating team rules, though the specific reason was never released.

“There were other personal issues, and [marijuana] was the one thing I always turned to,” Waller said. “It was just about finding more positive outlets for me to do, like talking to people about it and things like that. I’m definitely at a better place with that now.”

Waller knew the NFL’s rules against marijuana use, and said his decision was “definitely careless.”

“It’s knowing that it’s bigger than me around here,” Waller said. “When I’m here, it’s not a problem. I work hard and am involved in everything and positive. But when I leave here, am I still taking that mindset with me wherever I go? I’m definitely doing better with that now.”

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