Ex-NFL trainer's drug charges could be dismissed

by Ricardo Gutierrez - Ryan Vermillion, the former Commanders trainer who was under DEA investigation, could have charges that illegally distributed prescription drugs dismissed after agreeing to deferred prosecution Friday.

Ex-Washington Commanders trainer Ryan Vermillion's illegal drug distribution charges could be dropped as part of agreement play Irvin, Stephen A. disagree on Wentz's potential in Washington (1:23) Stephen A. Smith and Michael Irvin disagree on Carson Wentz's potential as the starting QB of the Commanders. (1:23) 12:46 PM ET John KeimESPN Staff Writer Close Covered the Redskins for the Washington Examiner and other media outlets since 1994 Authored or co-authored three books on the Redskins and one on the Cleveland Browns ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Former Washington Commanders head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion, who has been under investigation by the Drug Enforcement Agency for illegally distributing oxycodone to NFL players, agreed to deferred prosecution and the U.S. Attorney's office statement of facts 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 U.S. 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 checkered shirt with a tie and gray slacks, answered affirmatively to both questions. One source told ESPN that Vermillion gave the drugs to injured players in the locker room. Editor's Picks 1 Related If Vermillion complies with the conditions of the agreement over 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 allowed to give out prescription drugs according to federal law. Nor can a physician distribute them where they are unauthorized to practice. Vermillion's attorney, Barry Coburn, declined comment as did U.S. Attorney Katherine Elise Rumbaugh. Vermillion exited the courtroom quietly with Coburn and fellow lead attorney Marc Jason Eisenstein. Another attorney sat in the courtroom for the proceeding on behalf of the NFL. According to a joint statement by the NFL and NFL Players' Association, Vermillion has been indefinitely suspended by the league but can apply for reinstatement after one year. The statement also said the league and NFLPA also will initiate a joint investigation to determine whether the Commanders complied with the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. It said the Commanders have "pledged their full support." The NFL also will require the Commanders' medical and training staff to attend additional training "regarding obligations under federal law and state law and the collective bargaining agreement." Two dozen DEA agents and Loudoun County law enforcement officials executed a search warrant on Vermillion's home and the team's Ashburn, Virginia, headquarters in October of last year, after which the Commanders put Vermillion on administrative leave. Vermillion was the head athletic trainer for the Carolina Panthers under the tenure of 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 the "situation is unfortunate and although it resulted in no criminal charges, it was necessary to move forward in a different direction... "I want to emphasize that the U.S. Government confirmed from the outset that it viewed the organization as a witness, and not as a subject or target of the investigation. We cooperated fully with federal investigators, and we will continue to cooperate with any supplemental League and NFLPA inquiry. We continue to be committed to the health and safety of our players, and Al Bellamy, his staff, and our team doctors have been tremendous. We're focused on the season ahead." In 2014, the DEA randomly checked several NFL medical staffs at airports following a game -- Tampa Bay , San Francisco and Seattle -- as part of an investigation surrounding drug distribution without prescriptions. The Transportation Security Administration also was part of the search. According to an Associated Press report at the time, agents requested documentation from the visiting teams' medical staffs for controlled substances they possessed. They also wanted proof that doctors could practice medicine in the home team's state. That search stemmed from a lawsuit earlier that spring on behalf of ex-NFL players. The number of plaintiffs at that time, according to the AP, was more than 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 as 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 started investigating league doctors and trainers 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 in tandem with Panthers' team doctor Dr. Patrick Connor, who was the president of the NFL Physicians Society during the early part of the DEA investigation. As the NFLPS president, court documents show Dr. Connor was at the center of communications between the DEA and the NFL, including informational meetings that took place in 2010 in Washington, D.C., and at the 2011 NFL combine, where DEA representatives presented more than 75 slides to team doctors about the laws governing prescriptions and controlled substances. The NFLPS has warned teams and trainers since the 90s that trainers may not dispense or distribute controlled substances, according to court exhibits from a 2016 class-action lawsuit filed by former players against the NFL and its clubs. The NFLPS instituted reforms on how teams may prescribe and distribute medications to players in 2015 following the DEA investigation. Additional court exhibits from the class-action lawsuit show Vermillion sent and received emails from other trainers and Connor as the NFLPS navigated the DEA's investigation. No charges or indictments ever came from that investigation, with a DEA spokesperson stating in 2012 that the Chargers team doctor had entered into compliance for record-keeping drugs regulated by the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The 2016 class action lawsuit, however, presented multiple examples of team doctors and trainers allegedly violating the CSA over the last two decades, including allegations by former Panthers linebacker Brad Jackson that Vermillion and another trainer inappropriately provided Jackson with Toradol, Indocin, Percocet, Vicodin and other anti-inflammatory drugs. Lawyers for the NFL and its clubs denied the allegations in the court filings. Vermillion is just one of dozens of trainers and team doctors alleged to have violated the CSA by the plaintiffs of 2016 class action suit, a list that includes alleged violations of the CSA against every team in the league. As part of the suit's allegations against the Detroit Lions , former cornerback Eric King claimed he received drugs like Toradol, Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin from team doctors and trainers, including head trainer Al Bellamy, who replaced Vermillion as head athletic trainer for the Commanders in April. The case was eventually dismissed after a judge ruled the players had not filed their case within the required statute of limitations. The lawyers who brought that case continue to pursue a similar class-action suit against the NFL that has been making its way through the federal court system since 2014.