Justin Hilliard will spend the first two games of the 2022 season on the sideline. The third-year linebacker has been suspended for two games by the NFL for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances, the team announced.
Hilliard, via Twitter, stated on Friday that his positive test was the result of taking the wrong prescription.
"I have been informed by the NFL that I tested positive for a banned diuretic -- Spironolactone (Canrenone)," Hilliard wrote. "After investigation, it became clear that I mistakenly took my partner's prescription medication instead of my own anti-inflammatory prescription. I am well aware of the NFL's zero-tolerance policy, and I take full responsibility for having a banned substance in my body."
Hilliard, 25, is entering his second season with the Giants. Claimed off waivers on Sept. 1, Hilliard's 2021 season was cut short after he was placed on injured reserve in October due to an ankle injury. Hilliard appeared in two regular-season games before getting injured, with all 15 of his regular-season snaps coming on special teams.
A five-star recruit who played collegiately at Ohio State, Hilliard was signed by the 49ers after going undrafted last offseason. He was waived by the team shortly before the start of the regular season.
Along with his contributions on special teams, Hilliard is projected to serve as Blake Martinez's primary backup. The Giants linebacker room will also include rookie and No. 5 overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux. New York drafted two other linebackers this year in Indiana's Micah McFadden (fifth round, No. 147 overall) and Darrian Beavers (sixth round, No. 182 overall) from Cincinnati.
Six of the Giants' 11 draft picks were spent on the defensive side of the ball. Last season, Big Blue's defense finished 23rd in the NFL in scoring, 15th in passing, 25th in rushing, 16th on third downs and ninth in red zone efficiency. New York is entering the first year under head coach Brian Daboll, who spent the previous four seasons as the Bills offensive coordinator.