Former Washington Commanders coach Ryan Vermillion’s illegal drug distribution charges could be dropped as part of the deal

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Former Washington Commanders head athletic coach Ryan Vermillion, who has been investigated by the Drug Enforcement Agency for illegally distributing oxycodone to NFL players, has agreed to defer prosecution and the bureau’s statement of facts of the US Attorney on Friday morning.

According to the government’s criminal information filing, Vermillion is accused of unlawfully acquiring and obtaining possession of oxycodone “by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception, and subterfuge.”

Vermillion appeared in US District Court on Friday before Judge Claude M. Hilton, who asked the defendant if he had reviewed the deferred prosecution agreement and if he was in full agreement.

Vermillion, dressed in a navy blue sports jacket, a blue plaid shirt with a tie, and gray slacks, answered yes to both questions.

A source told ESPN that Vermillion gave the drugs to injured players in the locker room.

If Vermillion complies with the terms of the agreement during the next 12 months, the criminal charges will be dismissed. Meanwhile, the NFL has suspended him indefinitely.

As a trainer, and not a physician or nurse practitioner, Vermillion would not be permitted to dispense prescription drugs under federal law. A doctor also cannot distribute them where they are not authorized to practice.

Vermillion’s attorney, Barry Coburn, declined to comment, as did US Attorney Katherine Elise Rumbaugh.

Vermillion quietly left the courtroom with Coburn and lead attorney Marc Jason Eisenstein. Another attorney sat in the courtroom for the proceedings on behalf of the NFL.

According to a joint statement from the NFL and the NFL Players Association, Vermillion has been suspended indefinitely by the league but can apply for reinstatement after one year.

The release also said the league and the NFLPA will also launch a joint investigation to determine whether the Commanders complied with the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. He said the commanders have “pledged their full support.” The NFL will also require the Commanders’ medical and training personnel to attend additional training “with respect to obligations under federal and state law and the collective bargaining agreement.”

Two dozen Loudoun County DEA agents and law enforcement officials executed a search warrant at Vermillion’s home and team headquarters in Ashburn, Virginia, in October of last year, after which commanders placed Vermillion on administrative leave. Vermillion was the head athletic trainer for the Carolina Panthers under head coach Ron Rivera and followed Rivera to Washington shortly after he was hired as head coach in 2020.

Vermillion was eventually fired by the Commanders and, in April, replaced by Al Bellamy.

Rivera, who worked with Vermillion for nine seasons in Carolina and Washington, said in a statement that “the situation is unfortunate and while no criminal charges resulted, it was necessary to move in a different direction…

“I want to emphasize that the US government confirmed from the outset that it viewed the organization as a witness, and not a subject or target of the investigation. We fully cooperate with federal investigators and will continue to cooperate with any supplemental Leagues. and the NFLPA investigation. We remain committed to the health and safety of our players, and Al Bellamy, his staff and our team doctors have been tremendous. We are focused on the upcoming season.”

In 2014, the DEA randomly searched several NFL medical personnel at airports after a game (Tampa Bay, San Francisco and Seattle) as part of an investigation into the distribution of over-the-counter drugs. The Transportation Security Administration was also part of the search.

According to an Associated Press report at the time, agents requested documentation from visiting team medical personnel about controlled substances in their possession. They also wanted proof that doctors could practice medicine in the home team state.

That search grew out of a lawsuit earlier that spring on behalf of former NFL players. The number of plaintiffs at the time, according to AP, exceeded 1,200.

Steven Silverman, one of the attorneys representing the players in that case, told ESPN on Friday that if the allegations against Vermillion are true, “it is very disappointing that our plaintiffs have fought to eliminate these practices in the NFL.”

According to another lawsuit filed by Silverman’s in 2016 by retired NFL players, the DEA began investigating league doctors and coaches linked to the distribution of controlled substances in 2010 after a San Diego Chargers player was found with 100 Vicodin pills in his possession.

Vermillion was the head athletic trainer for the Panthers in 2010 and worked closely with the Panthers’ team physician, Dr. Patrick Connor, who was the president of the NFL Society of Physicians during the early part of the investigation of the DEA. As president of the NFLPS, court documents show that Dr. Connor was at the center of communications between the DEA and the NFL, including briefings that took place in 2010 in Washington, DC, and at the NFL combine in 2011, where DEA representatives presented more than 75 slides for team doctors on the laws governing prescriptions and controlled substances.

The NFLPS has warned teams and coaches since the 1990s that coaches may not dispense or distribute controlled substances, according to court documents from a 2016 class action lawsuit filed by former players against the NFL and its clubs. NFLPS instituted reforms on how teams can prescribe and distribute medication to players in 2015 following the DEA investigation.

Additional court filings from the class action lawsuit show that Vermillion sent and received emails from other coaches and from Connor as the NFLPS navigated the DEA investigation. No charges or indictments ever emerged from that investigation, and a DEA spokesperson testified in 2012 that the Chargers’ team doctor had complied with record-keeping medications regulated by the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

However, the 2016 class action lawsuit presented multiple examples of team doctors and coaches allegedly violating the CSA over the past two decades, including allegations by former Panthers linebacker Brad Jackson that Vermillion and another coach provided Jackson with Toradol, Indocin, Percocet, Vicodin inappropriately. and other anti-inflammatory drugs. Lawyers for the NFL and its clubs denied the allegations in court documents.

Vermillion is just one of dozens of coaches and team doctors alleged to have violated the CSA by the 2016 class action plaintiffs, a list that includes alleged CSA violations against every team in the league. As part of the allegations in the lawsuit against the Detroit Lions, former cornerback Eric King claimed he received medications such as Toradol, Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin from the team’s doctors and coaches, including head coach Al Bellamy, who replaced Vermillion. as the Commanders’ head athletic trainer in April.

The case was eventually dismissed after a judge ruled that the players had not brought their case within the required statute of limitations. The attorneys who brought that case continue to pursue a similar class action lawsuit against the NFL that has been making its way through the federal court system since 2014.

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