Former Washington trainer agrees to deferral of prosecution after DEA probe


Ryan Vermillion, the former head athletic trainer of Washington’s NFL team, reached a deferral of prosecution agreement with the federal government, stemming from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s probe into his time with the team. The DEA investigated Vermillion for possible distribution of prescription drugs.

In a deferral of prosecution agreement, the government grants amnesty in exchange for a defendant agreeing to fulfill certain requirements laid out by a judge. Essentially, Vermillion must adhere to the terms of the agreement for one year, and then the government will move to dismiss.

Vermillion, in a black suit with his attorneys by his side, appeared for a brief hearing Friday morning in Alexandria before District Court Judge Claude M. Hilton. No charges were levied.

“I was recently made aware that Ryan Vermillion has entered into an agreement, pursuant to which he has admitted to wrongdoing, but not be charged with any crime, so long as he satisfies certain conditions over the next 12 months,” Commanders Coach Ron Rivera said in a written statement Friday. “The situation is unfortunate and although it resulted in no criminal charges, it was necessary to move forward in a different direction. Ryan’s employment has been terminated. I want to emphasize that the U.S. Government confirmed from the outset that it viewed the organization as a witness, and not as a subject or target of the investigation. We cooperated fully with federal investigators, and we will continue to cooperate with any supplemental League and NFLPA inquiry.”

Vermillion’s attorney, Barry Coburn, and U.S. attorney Katherine Elise Rumbaugh declined to comment after the hearing.

Early last October, the team announced that Vermillion had been placed on administrative leave with pay due to an “ongoing criminal investigation that was unrelated to the team.” Days earlier, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office had searched Vermillion’s workspace at the Commanders headquarters as well as his nearby townhouse.

Roughly two dozen DEA agents, who arrived in unmarked cars, and Loudoun County law enforcement officers executed search warrants while some Washington staff members and players were still in the facility.

DEA investigation of Washington’s trainer is related to disbursement of prescription drugs

NFL teams typically employ multiple physicians in an array of specialties who often have their own full-time practices. These physicians work separately with teams and in conjunction with the clubs’ full-time athletic trainers and strength and conditioning coaches. Federal law bars anyone other than doctors and nurse practitioners from giving out prescription drugs.

Anthony Casolaro, who practices internal medicine, is Washington’s chief medical officer, and Chris Annunziata, an orthopedic surgeon, is the head team physician. The Commanders have nine other physicians on their medical team.

Soon after Vermillion was placed on leave, the team also placed one of his assistants, Doug Quon, on leave, too. The team never provided a reason for Quon’s leave, and it is still unclear if his situation is connected to Vermillion’s; Quon is not listed as a defendant in any case.

After the searches, the NFL Players Association sent a request to the league for information on the matter, stating that the situation “directly impacts player health and safety.” The union also issued letters to player agents, noting that federal investigators had already contacted one player and that “the DEA/prosecutors may contact additional players, but not clearly explain the matter.”

Washington didn’t replace Vermillion or Quon last season. Rivera said the team would operate “pretty much by committee.” It brought back some summer interns and received help from former Washington athletic trainer Bubba Tyer and former Capitals athletic trainer Greg Smith, in addition to the team’s remaining three assistant athletic trainers.

All told, Washington was without a head athletic trainer for 14 games last season. In April, the Commanders hired Al Bellamy to replace Vermillion. Bellamy had been with the team for 13 seasons prior, including its Super Bowl XXVI run in 1991-92.

Vermillion spent 18 seasons as the head athletic trainer for the Carolina Panthers, including nine under Rivera. When Washington hired Rivera, Vermillion was one of the first football staff members he brought with him, and he gave him the latitude to the lead a revamped athletic training staff.

Vermillion, who was Washington’s director of rehabilitation for a year before joining the Panthers in 2002, also spent nine seasons on the Miami Dolphins training staff after working for the University of Miami, which he graduated from in 1987.

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