As the NFL awaits developments tied to Friday’s federal raid on the Washington Football Team’s practice facility and townhome of head trainer Ryan Vermillion, the players union reached out to a swath of player agents Thursday seeking information on an apparent DEA investigation.
The NFLPA sent a letter to player agents on Thursday morning, alerting them to an investigation the union has opened into the raid — in response to what the union believes is a potential issue of player health and safety. In the letter, which was reviewed by Yahoo Sports, the union said at least one active player has been contacted by federal agents in response to a DEA investigation. However, a source familiar with the letter and also the union’s efforts to gather information said federal investigators have sought out more than one active player, although the source declined to give any further specifics.
In its letter, the NFLPA added that given Vermillion’s nearly three decades of NFL experience (working for the Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers and Washington) there is potential for the federal investigation to expand into the trainer’s tenure with past NFL franchises, and could include reaching out to past and present players tied to those organizations. In anticipation of that possibility, the union requested that agents or players contact the NFLPA’s legal department if they are approached by DEA prosecutors over the course of the investigation.
The letter added that players contacted in the investigation could be asked questions by the DEA without being told specifically what it was regarding. The letter did not specify which active player had been contacted by federal agents in the investigation, but a source with knowledge of the instance said the contact came prior to the search warrants being executed on the Washington facility and Vermillion’s home. The source declined to name the player or whether he was actively cooperating with the investigation.
No arrests have been made and no charges have been filed since the search warrants were executed on Friday. Vermillion hasn’t spoken publicly, either. He also has retained respected Washington D.C. defense attorney Barry Coburn, who also has not commented on last week’s events.
Interestingly, a league source familiar with Friday’s developments said neither the Washington Football Team nor NFL league office was aware of a federal investigation involving Vermillion — despite an active player having been in contact with investigators. The source said the league’s knowledge has been limited to whatever the Washington franchise learned on Friday, before the franchise placed Vermillion on administrative leave. NBC Sports Washington cited sources on Wednesday in a report that the probe into Vermillion was related to “possible diversion of prescription drugs”, but a league source declined to confirm that or whether federal agents were seeking prescription drug information during their search of the WFT facility.
“What we know about [the search] is very limited and what the [DEA] is sharing is very little,” the league source said. “Anyone in contact is being advised by investigators and also their own related legal counsel not to speak about any of it. It doesn’t get any more clear.”
Prior to being placed on administrative leave, Vermillion had been lauded repeatedly for his work in various training and healthcare coordination positions. Head coach Ron Rivera, who has known Vermillion since their days together in the Carolina franchise and who personally led the way to his hiring in Washington, also credited Vermillion with helping him through his recent cancer battle, as well as the development of the team’s COVID-19 protocols dating back to last season.