The next chapter of the battle of the NFL versus its players has begun to be written. On Monday, it was announced that James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers of the Green Bay Packers and Mike Neal, who previously played for Green Bay but is now a free agent could face disciplinary actions, including suspensions, if they don’t cooperate with the NFL.
The cooperation is in regards to the NFL wanting to conduct interviews with the four players for allegations that were revealed in the Al-Jazeera report back in December. The players have until August 25 to contact the NFL to set up an interview or else they will be suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the league.
The conduct detrimental stems from Article 46 of the collective bargaining agreement, the same article that practically gives the NFL even more power in cases against the players.
The NFL wants to conduct their own investigations into the allegations of these four players to determine if they violated any of the PED policy. The league doesn’t have the best history when it comes to conducting their own investigations.
The battle between the NFL and Tom Brady finally concluded a few weeks ago when Brady decided to stop trying to prove his innocence and just serve the four-game suspension. There was seemingly no evidence that Brady had anything to do with the deflation of footballs. Brady was mainly suspended for not cooperating with the league, despite giving them all the information needed. The league decided he “more likely than not” had something to do with that incident, yet there was zero direct evidence that proved Brady to be guilty.
In a letter sent from Adolpho Birch, the NFL senior vice president of labor policy and league affairs, it was stated that the four players “have to cooperate during the interview and provide meaningful responses.” Basically, if the players choose to not comply, even if agreeing to the interview, they could be facing a suspension.
There was no comment on Monday from the NFLPA, but in the past they said the NFL had no evidence to merit an investigation. Charlie Sly, who was the Indiana pharmacist who made the initial allegations to Al-Jazeera, has since recanted his statements about the players, most notably Peyton Manning, who is now retired and has had his name cleared.
All four of the players are subject to the NFL’s drug testing policy regarding PEDs, so if there is a failed test then the investigation would be warranted. However, if neither of these players have failed a test, where is the evidence needed to conduct another investigation?
If any of the past NFL investigations are any indication of how this will play out, we could very well see this end up in court due to the wielding of power from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. He essentially is the judge, jury and executioner, something many players across the league are very outspoken about. In all reality, if these players either don’t comply or don’t do the interview, they will be suspended until the interview is conducted, even if there is no justifiable evidence to conduct such an investigation.
Back in June, Harrison said he would do the interview, but on his terms. He wanted the interview to be conducted at his house, with Goodell being in attendance. That wasn’t going to happen, but it was a bold statement coming from Harrison, who is one of the players who is outspoken on Goodell and how he handles player punishment.
Next up for the Harrison, Matthews, Peppers and Neal is to make a decision on whether or not to conduct the interview or take suspensions. The four players should fight this to the very end, even if it winds up back in the court room. This could very well dictate that going forward, if there are any public allegations about a player, they can either be investigated by the NFL or be suspended.
Get ready for what could be another very long process that could have big implications for cases of the NFL versus the players. If the four players are found to have had no PED use, then this will not look good for the shield of the NFL.