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How Random is the NFL’s Drug Testing? Eric Reid Would Like to Know

Photo courtesy of Jim Dedmon - USA TODAY.

In May of 2017, Eric Reid followed in the footsteps of former teammate Colin Kaepernick and filed a collusion grievance against the NFL and team owners. Unlike Kaepernick, however, Reid was still able to find a job in the NFL following this move when the Panthers lost veteran safety Da’Norris Searcy to injury in Week 3, signing Reid shortly after.

Reid has made headlines throughout the season for both continuing his silent protest during the National Anthem and for being a suspected target of random drug testing, at least according to Reid himself…

And he may have a point. Every week, the NFL randomly selects 10 players from each team to be drug tested immediately after they play. Players eligible for this random drug testing include all players on the active roster, practice squad, and reserve list. With the 53-man active roster, a 10 man practice squad, and a reserve list that can include suspended players, injured players, those physically unable to perform, or a laundry list of other reasons they are not active but still on the team, this can create an eligible field for random drug testing upwards of 75+ individuals.

In the case of Eric Reid and Carolina, the Panthers currently have 76 players eligible for random drug testing. This personally gives Reid a 13.16% chance of being drug tested on any given day. After last nights 12-9 loss to the Saints, however, he was selected for the 7th time in 11 weeks. What are the odds of that? Is it “statistically impossible” as Reid assumes?

The probability of being selected 7 times in 11 weeks with just a 13.16% chance of being selected on any given test points to the idea that Reid may have a point about the NFL stacking the odds against him at all times.

To calculate those actual chances, the math behind it gets a little intense. He has a 13.16% chance of being selected, or an 86.84% chance of not being randomly selected for drug testing. Since each week is a completely new random selection of 10 players being tested, the randomness of one week’s drug test selections is independent from the previous week’s selections. To calculate the chances that Reid is selected 7 times in 11 weeks, you have to use a cumulative binomial probability. Here’s the breakdown of Eric Reid’s selection randomness:

• Probability of being selected less than 7 times in 11 trials: 99.986%
• Probability of being selected 7 or more times in 11 trials: 0.0138%

Reid has kept a fairly upbeat attitude towards the whole process, but the underlying tone of his annoyance is clear. And to quote Reid from the earlier video, “that has to be statistically impossible.”

Reid has no plans on dropping his lawsuit against the NFL. According to The Athletic’s Joe Person, Reid plans on adding each random drug testing slip as evidence towards his collusion case. He also has no plans on dropping his fight against racial injustice. During Monday night’s game against the Saints, he wore these cleats featuring former teammate Colin Kaepernick in the artwork:

Connor Dolan
Connor is co-founder of First And Fan and head of all website operations. He's a die hard Boston sports fan with a passion for sports, media, and all things David Ortiz.