Nigel Bradham is trying to stay upbeat even after learning he’ll be suspended for the first game of the regular season for a year-old drug offense.
The NFL announced on Wednesday that the Buffalo Bills linebacker will miss the start of the season because of a one-game suspension. Bradham said the suspension comes from a ticket he received last August for marijuana possession in suburban Buffalo.
"It’s something that followed me from last year, a decision I made," Bradham said. "I regret it, I made a mistake. I apologized to my teammates. I’m sorry that we’ve got to go through this again. Hopefully, I just get past it come back in Game 2 ready."
Bradham said that he first learned of the suspension in March and decided to appeal. The appeal happened one week ago, Bradham said, and the NFL upheld its original ruling.
The linebacker was disappointed to receive discipline a year after the incident took place, especially because all charges were dropped.
"Everything was dismissed, and I’m not in the substance abuse program or anything," Bradham said. "It’s kind of shocking and disappointing that it came back again."
The suspension is a setback for the 24-year-old, who has made significant strides both on and off the football field this season.
With linebacker Kiko Alonso out for the season because of a knee injury, Bradham has taken charge of Alonso’s starting weakside spot and has worked exclusively with the first team at training camp. He has drawn praise from both coach Doug Marrone and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz for his change in approach and attitude compared to one year ago.
"Obviously, it’s unfortunate, especially since Nigel has been playing very well," Marrone said. "Like I’ve said before, I’ve probably seen the biggest improvement in him. When I say that, I’m not just talking about him as a football player. When you look back at what happened, maybe it took something like that for him to grow up and I think he’s learned to make better decisions."
Bradham has stressed that the incident last year served as a wake-up call.
"I was hanging around with some of the wrong people and made some bad decisions," Bradham told The Associated Press last week. "It was a chance where I could have lost everything that I’ve worked my life for out here. I just had to get that focus and remove myself from some of the people I was around, make better decisions and be a man. … I let these guys down and I can’t do that anymore. I’ve got to kind of put the team on my back. I feel like I owe them."
A fourth-round pick of the Bills in 2012, Bradham had 51 tackles in 2013. He remains eligible to participate in preseason practices and games.
Bradham may not be the only Bills defender to miss the start of the season. Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus may also face NFL discipline following arrests for drug possession and a drag racing incident this spring.