Giants Linebacker Suspended by NFL for Banned Substance

Justin Hilliard

Getty This New York Giants linebacker received a two-game suspension for testing positive for using a banned substance.

The New York Giants‘ linebacker depth just took a major hit.

The NFL has suspended Justin Hilliard for the first two games of the 2022 regular season due to a violation of the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Hilliard announced via Twitter on Friday, June 17 that his suspension was a result of taking his partner’s prescription by mistake.

According to Hilliard, the banned substance he tested positive for was Spironolactone (Canrenone). He mistakenly took this prescribed medicine instead of his own anti-inflammatory prescription. Hilliard went on to accept full responsibility for the NFL’s zero-tolerance policy and for taking a banned substance.

Hilliard, 25, was a five-star recruit at the University of Ohio State. The Buckeyes product went undrafted in 2021, before signing with the San Francisco 49ers last offseason. After Hilliard was waived by the 49ers prior to the regular season, the Giants claimed him and proceeded to place him on their practice squad.

Hilliard appeared in two games for the Giants a season ago, before being placed on injured reserve on October 15 with an ankle injury.

Hilliard’s Roster Spot Chances

For much of the offseason, Hilliard has seen time with the Giants’ first-team defense while Blake Martinez recovers from a torn ACL suffered in Week 3 of 2021.

Hilliard can continue taking snaps with the first team during training camp and preseason games, but will not be eligible to appear in a regular-season game until Week 3. He will miss the Giants’ first two contests against the Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers.

At the moment, Hilliard’s chances of cracking the roster look pretty strong, given he is Martinez’s primary backup at the inside linebacker position. He also provides value with his ability to play special teams as well.

Along with Hilliard, the Giants’ current linebacker depth includes first-round pick Kayvon Thibodeaux, Azeez Ojulari, Tae Crowder, Elerson Smith, Micah McFadden, Jihad Ward, Quincy Roche, Carter Coughlin, Darrian Beavers and Oshane Ximines.

The Giants’ front seven is expected to improve this season following the addition of Thibodeaux, who they selected with the fifth overall selection in this year’s NFL draft.

Hilliard’s Promise

While Hilliard will be forced to sit out the first two games of the season, and was limited to just two contests prior to getting injured during his rookie campaign, there is some potential there.

Hilliard never lived up to his high ceiling with Ohio State, but he did show promise. In six games in his final year of eligibility in 2020, Hilliard recorded five tackles for a loss and 33 total.

This type of ability to sniff out stops behind the line of scrimmage is a key tool that defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale might able to utilize this season. Martindale is known for running a blitz-heavy defense, and will already have a number of weapons to deploy on the Giants’ front seven, with Thibodeaux, Leonard Williams and Ojulari.

While Hilliard will have to earn his spot with the Giants and will be unavailable for the first two games due to his banned substance suspension, he is still just 25 years old and there is talent that can be unlocked with the right coaching.

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Arrilla Dorn
Arrilla Dorn
6 days ago

“Hilliard, 25, was a five-star recruit at the University of Ohio State.” When did The OSU rename themselves? The author needs to do some research.

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