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DeAndre Hopkins: Both Sides Now

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Background: Dec 13, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) reacts during the first half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas

After the report came out yesterday that DeAndre Hopkins was suspended six games by the NFL for a PED violation (that was detected in November of last year), he issued this statement:

There are two ways to react to DeAndre’s statement:

1 —- man, DeAndre got screwed and why is a November test suddenly coming up now?

2 —- this statement is standard procedure these day for NFL players who get suspended for PED violations in order to insist that they had no idea they were ingesting an illegal substance.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, DeAndre’s attempts to appeal his suspension have been denied —- which may account, in part, for why the NFL’s “official” announcement didn’t come out until yesterday.

The NFL also likely wanted to spare DeAndre Hopkins the embarrassment of the announcement coming out before or during the 2022 NFL Draft.

One would think that for the NFL to suspend one of its most prized superstars, they would have to have concrete proof of the violation.

The question that some fans like myself would like to ask is —- do we really know DeAndre Hopkins as well as we might imagine?

Hopkins has said on a number of occasions, “I never want to let my team down.”

Well, to frame the question in the form of a Joni Mitchell classic, titled “Both Sides Now” —-

“I’ve looked at Hop from both sides now, from win and lose, and still somehow, it’s Hop’s illusions I recall, I really don’t know Hop, at all.”

On the one side, DeAndre Hopkins, when he is healthy and at his best, is one of the most outstanding and leap-out-of your-seat exciting wide receivers of all time. He has hands like first basemen’s mitts, and with his cat-quick movements, he can slither and shake his way through a defense like a rattlesnake. Moreover, the dude can snatch and secure diamonds out of thin air. Like this epic-size gem:

No one can ever take away the excitement that DeAndre Hopkins has delivered to NFL fans for the past ten years. One would have to believe that he is is a shoo-in for the NFL Hall of Fame.

Career Stats (9 seasons): 789 receptions, 10,581 yards, 13.4 yards per catch, 68 TDs.

On the other side, however, DeAndre Hopkins is a player who likes to practice, play and negotiate contracts on his own terms. Cardinals’ GM Steve Keim, when asked about DeAndre Hopkins’ proclivity for skipping practices said, “Every player is different, the way their body responds throughout the season, they know how to practice and how not to practice.”

While DeAndre Hopkins has been with the Cardinals, his best games were during the first half of 2020. However, following the 2020 bye week, Hopkins was held in check during 5 of the team’s six losses by Xavien Howard, Stephon Gilmore, Jalen Ramsey twice and, perhaps most disappointingly of all, by Jason Verrett —- in a December home game with the playoffs on the line —- with the 8 win Cardinals facing a 5 win 49ers’ team that was down to their 3rd string QB. In the 6 losses that the Cardinals incurred following the bye week, Hopkins’ highest yard total in any of the games was 55 yards, plus he only scored 1 TD over the entire course of those six games. Conversely, in the 3 games the Cardinals won after the bye week, Hopkins produced over 100 receiving yards in all three of them.

This past season, DeAndre Hopkins did not have one 100 yard game. He only had one game of more than 70 yards in receptions. However, was highly effective in the red zone, hauling in 8 TDs while the Cardinals were winning 8 of the 10 games he started. However, his last game at home versus the Rams in a 30-23 loss, he caught 5 passes on 13 targets for 54 yards and 0 TDs. By then he might have known about testing positive for PEDs, and unfortunately, his season ended near the end of that game when he tore an MCL.

DeAndre Hopkins appears to be an aging star player who is feeling a profound sense of conflict about his ability to hold up physically and mentally throughout a 17 game regular season and the playoffs. Last November, with the Cardinals on the verge of making the playoffs, and with DeAndre suffering through nagging injuries, he apparently took the risk of taking performance enhancing drugs so that he could regain the mental and physical edge that he feared he was losing.

In the four years that his Houston Texans made the playoffs, in 6 games (2-4), Hopkins caught 37 passes on 61 targets for 446 yards (12.1) and 1 TD. One can imagine that he is highly motivated to improve on those states, which are mediocre by his standards.

The statement he made yesterday indicated that he was “confused and shocked” that he tested positive for PEDs, but, he also conceded that “clearly I wasn’t careful enough.”

While no one can ever take away from the fact that DeAndre Hopkins has been on an NFL Hall of Fame type trajectory throughout his nine seasons in the NFL, with yesterday’s announcement of his 6 game suspension (1/3 of the Cardinals’ regular 2022 season) he has now created nightmare scenarios for both of the teams he’s played for.

While some may argue that Hopkins had every right to want another new contract from the Texans a mere two years after agreeing to a 5 year, $81M second contract in which all of the guaranteed money, $49M, was paid up front.

However, it’s a team’s utter nightmare when players demand another contract with the threat of a holdout two years into a 5 year deal, having been lavished with all of the $49M guaranteed money over the first two years. Think about that. Back in 2018 and 2019 DeAndre Hopkins was essentially banking well over $25M a season. And instead of feeling appreciative of that, at least for one more season, as a sign of good will after his team had won the AFC South and had advanced to the second round of the playoffs, he backed the team into a corner.

While some Cardinals fans may argue that DeAndre Hopkins was trying to do his best for the team as it prepared for its first playoff berth since 2015, the fact is that by incurring a six game suspension at the outset of his third season with the Cardinals where he has already been lavished with $60M in guaranteed money, once again, he has backed his team into a corner.

DeAndre Hopkins keeps insisting that “I never want to let my team down.”

Yet, DeAndre Hopkins has now let both the Texans and the Cardinals down, big-time. Two teams that have bent over backwards for him.

Commentary: On tomorrow’s Red Rain podcast, I am going to rebut Dan Orlovsky’s argument (in the video above) that the Cardinals are not a playoff team without DeAndre Hopkins, and I am going to echo, as I did yesterday in this tweet here, what offensive changes Mina Kimes expects the Cardinals to make in D-Hop’s absence.

Question: how do you think this season will shake out for DeAndre Hopkins?

As the Joni Mitchell song goes, “well something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day.”