EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The stress of coping with life led Will Hill to use marijuana, the New York Giants safety said Sunday in his first comments after being hit by the NFL with his second four-game suspension.
Speaking frankly before practicing at training camp, Hill said that the suspension he received last week for using marijuana was for failing a drug test last season.
The league didn’t immediately impose a penalty because Hill tried to fight it. He was also suspended for four games early last season for using a performance-enhancing drug, which he and the team said was Adderall.
"Oh yeah, it’s definitely disappointing," said Hill, who made the Giants as a free agent last season. "By us being professional athletes you would think people who would have your back would have your back, but coming out and growing up in this environment here, I had a lot of stress from my environments and [drugs were] the only way I knew how to cope with it until I got with the team and they put me in some clinics and stuff and helped me out."
The 23-year-old would miss the opening four games of the season if he makes the team. He said he has not used any banned substances this year and recently underwent drug rehabilitation in March and April in Boston, following that with outpatient meetings in New Jersey.
Hill, who grew up in nearby East Orange, said he dealt with a lot of stress growing up and just as much now.
"Nah, nothing to do with football," he said. "It’s from family members, everyone reaching their hand out thinking I’m an ATM, and people who think you owe them something. It was just a situation where I was visiting back to my hometown and a guy pulled a shotgun on me right then and wanted money. How do you deal with those situations? I really can’t so I dealt with it the best way I knew how."
Hill was one of those athletes who had more talent than anyone. People were constantly telling him he was going to be a superstar and that belief grew when he had an outstanding scholastic career at St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City and then went to Florida on a full ride. While he played for the Gators, he had his problems. He left the team to enter the NFL Draft in 2011, wasn’t picked, sat out a year and was then signed by the Giants.
Hill played in 12 games last season and had 30 tackles and two passes defended. He also contributed 13 special teams tackles.
While some thought the second suspension might lead to Hill’s release before the start of camp, Hill believes his job is safe.
"I talked to the team and they just told me to keep on moving forward, keep being positive," he said. "Just take the suspension and leave it at that and don’t have any more mishaps."
Coach Tom Coughlin didn’t have much to say about Hill’s second suspension.
"We’re disappointed and hopefully Will is going to get his life straightened out," Coughlin said.
If there is a hard part for Hill, it’s knowing that he would miss the first four games.
"I wouldn’t say it’s going to be a total distraction or what I need to do for this team," Hill said. "I know all the plays, I know everything. I just have to keep repping at it. I would love to be out there to help this team and organization win, it’s just I have to root from the sidelines."
Hill also has to root for himself to keep his life in check. The rehabilitation has helped somewhat.
"It wasn’t forced upon me," he said. "They asked me if I wanted to go and I did. I definitely wanted to get away from here for one. The stressful situations didn’t go out there. And learn a thing or two."
One of the things he learned from his fellow patients was simple.
"There are a lot of people who have worse issues than I have, and [it] made me feel a lot better," he said.
The Giants have depth at safety with veterans Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown, Tyler Sash, Ryan Mundy and rookie Cooper Taylor, a fifth round pick this spring, all competing for jobs along with Hill and a couple of free agents.