The lessons of NFL's steroid policy

December, 13, 2007
While watching ESPN's continuous coverage of the Mitchell report, my mind flashed back to the beginnings of the NFL steroid policy. It was the mid-1980s, and the NFL had a budding steroids policy. Owners wanted to fix it, but labor strife created initial distrust for players to submit to random steroid testing. But the more players saw the efforts on players using steroids along with the realization they would have to use them to compete, the players pushed their union reps to accept steroid testing. That was two decades ago, and the time was painful. For around two years, the game suffered. Alleged losers watched their bodies break down. Injuries appeared to escalate. It was a painful time, and it was painfully necessary. Now, 20 years later, the NFL has a drug policy it should be proud of. No, it's not perfect. Those trying to beat any drug test have the money and chemistry to do it. It would be na´ve to think players aren't using performance enhancing drugs. Some are clearly. Watching baseball release its report was painful, too. Big names were smeared, and that's without positive testing. Baseball is going through what pro football went through 20 years ago. It's sad it has taken baseball so long, and they still have a long way to go.

The one thing the NFL and NFLPA should learn from the Mitchell report is to review confidentiality issues. Confidentiality is a key part of any drug policy. Too many times, rumors of upcoming suspensions leak out before they should, and that needs to be cleaned up because it creates distrust among the players. The Mitchell Report destroyed the idea of confidentiality because big names were mentioned without references to positive tests. That could slow baseball's progress in fighting steroid abuse. As long as the NFL maintains confidentiality, pro football can move forward in that process.

Pats out of line: The Patriots' decision to put defensive lineman Mike Wright on the injured reserve list may seem like a minor move, but nothing is minor involving the Patriots. Like Rosevelt Colvin's loss to the team, Wright's loss causes depth problems. Colvin, an outside linebacker, forces the Patriots to use Junior Seau and Tedy Bruschi more than their aging bodies should allow. The loss of Wright trims the list of defensive linemen on the roster to five. As a 3-4 defense, the Patriots have enough to get through games, but there are problems. Richard Seymour still isn't at 100 percent coming off the knee injury that sidelined him into the regular season, so the Patriots have rotated more than normal last week. Wright, as the fifth defensive linemen, gets around 15 plays per game. That role goes to LeKevin Smith, a sixth-round pick.

Better safe than sorry: Randy Thomas of the Redskins didn't go on the injured reserve list because he re-injured his triceps muscle playing last week, but it was the way he played that moved him to the injured list. Thomas told team officials he couldn't get much strength as he went into his blocks. The team decided to shut him down for the season. They've re-signed guard Rick DeMulling.

Moment of truth: Vinny Testaverde missed his second day of practice, which could mean Matt Moore might get his first start Sunday against the Seahawks. Testaverde missed his second day of practice and there is no guarantee he will get a chance to practice on Friday. If Testaverde can't play, David Carr might be the backup, but he's out of the thoughts of the team as far as putting him on the field. Carr will be gone after the season. He struggled so much down the stretch that the Panthers decided it would be better to keep him as a third quarterback.



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