BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Before taking the field and covering a wide receiver, Browns rookie Jabrill Peppers defended his reputation.
Under scrutiny after being placed in the NFL's drug program for a diluted urine sample taken at the scouting combine, Peppers said he has no history using illegal recreational drugs and that Cleveland doesn't have to worry about him getting into any trouble.
Peppers, drafted in the first round by the Browns last month, addressed his recent failed test on Friday as Cleveland's rookies began their three-day minicamp. The former multi-position star at Michigan said a long-time problem with cramping caused him to drink too much water at the combine in Indianapolis, and his diluted sample was a result of him over-hydrating.
Under league guidelines, a diluted sample is viewed as a positive test and therefore Peppers was automatically entered into Stage One of the substance abuse program. Peppers won't be suspended or face any fines, but he can be subject to further testing. As long as he stays clean, Peppers can exit the program.
He understands the diluted sample has raised suspicions about his character, but Peppers said all he can do at this point is focus on football.
"I do have a history of cramping," he said. "I was working out for two position groups and I was informed to hydrate. I know now that too much hydration can hurt, but you know it's not a big deal for me. I'm not really too worried about it. People can speculate all they want. I'm just here to learn from these guys and be the best person I can be."
Peppers also came under attack this week on Cleveland sports talk radio as Samantha Parr, an on-air personality for WKNR-850, alleged he has taken the drug Ecstasy and ingested "lean," a drink laced with codeine.
"No. No. Absolutely not, never in my life," Peppers said when asked if he ever took what was claimed. "Whatever drugs she said I've done, I've never done in my life."
Playing for one of college football's powerhouse programs has prepared Peppers for the pro stage. Still, being publicly denigrated isn't easy for him.
"That's the society," he said. "I've been pretty much in the spotlight since I've been to Michigan, so I'm built for it. But that's just society. Those who don't like me use things like this to further their agenda and other people speculate. I can only control what I can control, and that's being the best ballplayer and person that I can be."
The Browns selected Peppers with the No. 25 overall pick, and the team believes he can help their turnaround following a 1-15 season.
While his start hasn't been as smooth as he hoped, the New Jersey native said he won't let any of the outside distractions affect him.
"No one's going to take this moment away from me," he said. "I don't care what it is. I've worked my whole life to get here. I'm happy to be here. I'm not going to let what people say about me ruin the best moment of my life. Are you kidding me? I've been talked about, hated on my whole life. There's no skin off my teeth. I'm extremely happy I'm here. I'm happy to prove myself again."
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