Titans linebacker Gerald McRath wants to be known for playing the right way, the clean way. So he said Monday that’s why he dropped his appeal of a four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances.
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McRath said he learned in February he had tested positive early in his rookie season, a year in which the fourth-round draft pick out of Southern Mississippi started five games at outside linebacker. Standing in front of his locker, McRath said it was not for steroids though the NFL did not tell him exactly substance they found in the positive test.
"I take a number of supplements, but it was something that I took. In actuality, it’s still my responsibility,” McRath said.
The Titans released a statement from the NFL announcing the suspension near the end of the team’s practice Monday. McRath’s unpaid suspension starts Sept. 4, and he cannot return to the roster until Oct. 4 – a day after the Titans host the Denver Broncos.
Coach Jeff Fisher said the Titans were notified of the suspension Monday morning but he had known about McRath’s appeal.
"Really all we can say is that we feel like we go above and beyond as far as teaching the players their responsibility as far as what they put into their bodies. Gerald, like most of his teammates, are very, very conscientious about it. There are situations where even though you think you are taking a product that is safe, often times there are contaminated batches,” Fisher said.
The 6-foot-3, 231-pound McRath has been working at outside linebacker all offseason and is a strong candidate to earn the starting job this season. He had 38 tackles with one interception as a rookie.
David Thornton, who started at that spot last season, is recovering from shoulder surgery and isn’t expected to be ready to practice until training camp. He is in the final year of his contract and due $4.3 million in 2010. Fisher said the Titans have plenty of options at the position, including 10-year veteran and free agent Keith Bulluck who is recovering from a torn ACL.
McRath said he hasn’t taken any supplements since learning of the positive test and is paying approximately $6,000 to check what he took to track down the offending item. He also plans to test any supplement first in the future to avoid another positive test.
"The process is just frustrating because you look to yourself and you’re like, ‘Man, I’m not that type of person.’ No, I didn’t cheat. But at the same time, you’re in the NFL now so you’re a professional. … I withdrew my appeal because I’m getting older. I’ve got to take responsibility,” he said.
McRath said he feels he let down his teammates, the Titans, his family and Southern Miss.
"To be in this type of spotlight is not what I was raised on. I believe in working hard. I believe in things don’t come easy to anybody,” he said. "They say they found something in me, there’s no need for me to even argue about it. … I’m doing the process now of getting everything I was taking, getting it tested so I know I can’t take that.”