Scorching Saints defense loses starting safety Marcus Maye to substance abuse suspension

The NFL has suspended starting New Orleans safety Marcus Maye three games for a substance abuse violation, a blow to a stout Saints defense that looks like one of the league’s best.

The Saints announced the suspension on Wednesday, sharing a brief statement from the NFL that Maye was in violation of “the NFL policy on substances of abuse” and will be suspended without pay. He’ll miss games against the Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots. He’ll be eligible to return in Week 6 against the Houston Texans.

The league didn’t specify the nature of the violation, but the suspension appears to be related to Maye’s 2021 DUI arrest in Florida while he was a member of the New York Jets. Maye was charged with driving under the influence, damage to property and person and leaving the scene of a crash.

Marcus Maye pleaded no contest in August to a DUI charge from 2021. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)

Marcus Maye pleaded no contest in August to a DUI charge from 2021. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)

Police say that Maye crashed into the back of another car around 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 22 in Fort Lauderdale and was later found “unresponsive when approached and moving side to side.” Per a police report, officers say they saw vomit on the side of his car and could smell alcohol on his breath. Per the report, Maye declined to take a breathalyzer and was subsequently arrested.

Maye initially pleaded not guilty to the charges continued to play for the Jets in 2021 and then the Saints in 2022. He reached a plea deal with prosecutors in August and entered a plea of no contest. He was sentenced to six months probation, assigned 50 hours of community service and had his driver’s license suspended for six months.

Per the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, players are suspended for three games without pay for a first DUI offense.

Maye is playing on the second year of a three-year, $22.5 million contract with the Saints. In 72 career games, he’s recorded seven interceptions, five forced fumbles, 27 passes defended, 4.5 sacks and 385 tackles. He starts at strong safety alongside free safety Tyrann Mathieu. Backup and special teams specialist J.T. Gray projects to start in his place.

Through two games, the Saints rank in the top six in the NFL in both points (16) and yards (262) allowed per game. The Saints kept the Tennessee Titans out of the end zone in a 16-15 Week 1 win and didn’t allow their first touchdown of the season until a score by the Carolina Panthers on their final drive Monday night in a 20-17 Saints win.

They’ll face a tougher test on Sunday against a Packers team that’s scored 62 points in two games before an NFC South clash with the Bucs in Week 4.

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