SEATTLE CORNERBACK Richard Sherman won his appeal of a four-game suspension for use of performance-enhancing substances, making him eligible for the playoffs.
Sherman was steadfast since news broke of his pending suspension that he believed he would win on appeal. Sherman's appeal was based on errors in the chain of custody of his sample and that there were mistakes made by the tester.
The decision that was made by former NFL executive Bob Wallace came early Thursday morning. Sherman was called by his lawyer and simply announced in the Seahawks' locker room, "I won." High-fives ensued. Sherman took to Twitter and let his 40,000-plus followers know of his result.
The decision makes Sherman eligible for the Seahawks season finale against St. Louis and, more important, the playoffs. Seattle has played the last 3 weeks without fellow starting cornerback Brandon Browner who is serving a four-game suspension for a banned-substance violation.
Browner's suspension expires after Sunday's game against the Rams, so Seattle will have both of its starting cornerbacks available for the postseason.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email the league is reviewing the decision, but was declining comment due to confidentiality provisions.
A copy of Wallace's decision was obtained by the Associated Press. Wallace writes that the collection process of Sherman's urine sample on Sept. 17, the day after Seattle beat Dallas in Week 2, was not ordinary.
According to the written decision, Sherman's sample cup began leaking, to which the tester grabbed another cup and transferred the sample. Documentation of the leaking cup was not originally on the submitted report following the test and only when asked by a supervisor in October did the tester acknowledge the sample being transferred from the original cup. The tester later gave testimony that he'd never experienced a leaking cup before, yet didn't feel the situation rose to the level of needing to be included on his report.
Wallace wrote the omission of the leaking cup from the report was a "big deal," and that, "insuring a sample is collected properly is the cornerstone of the program and when an event occurs that does not happen routinely or that the collector has never experienced while collecting the sample it is incumbent upon that collector to note what happened."
"Accordingly, Mr. Sherman's appeal is granted and the discipline is reversed," Wallace wrote.
New York Jets quarterback Greg McElroy has a concussion - which he didn't reveal until Thursday - and will be replaced by benched starter Mark Sanchez at Buffalo.
McElroy, preparing to make his second NFL start, was lifting weights Thursday morning and started experiencing headaches, coach Rex Ryan said. McElroy went to the team's training staff and revealed he was suffering concussion-like symptoms after being sacked 11 times in the Jets' 27-17 loss to San Diego last Sunday. McElroy and head trainer John Mellody then went to Ryan to tell the coach the news.
"We come to find out that Greg wasn't exactly truthful with our training staff after the game," said Ryan, who acknowledged he was "stunned" to hear it.
Ryan chose to start Sanchez over Tim Tebow because the team has just two practices and a walkthrough to prepare before the game. "Obviously, Tim's not happy with that, as you'd expect," Ryan said.
* Baltimore safety Ed Reed was fined $55,000 by the NFL for his hit on New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz. The fine was for striking a defenseless player in the head and neck area.
* The NFL fined Carolina quarterback Cam Newton $21,000 for abusive conduct toward a game official, a source told the Associated Press. Newton shouted at and bumped referee Jerome Boger in the fourth quarter of Carolina's penalty-plagued 17-6 victory over Oakland. Newton apologized after the game.
* St. Louis running back Steven Jackson will have the option to explore free agency after the season, raising the question of whether Sunday's finale at Seattle will be his final game in a Rams uniform. Jackson intimated that he might retire at the end of this season. Though he laughed as he said it, the 29-year-old running back didn't retreat from the idea when asked how serious he was about the possibility. "If I have to write my story," Jackson said, "I'd rather go out like Barry Sanders and leaving people to want more than to leave too late."
* Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, 75, told the team he intends to return next season.