Over the last several months, the NFL has dragged on an investigation of four current NFL players - Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, James Harrison, and Mike Neal - who were mentioned by name in an Al-Jazeera America story on the use of performance-enhancing drugs. The players up until this point had maintained their innocence and refused to submit to interviews with the league and commissioner Roger Goodell.
However, this week’s statements by the league have changed the situation. On Monday, the league informed the players that they would have until August 25th to interview with the league or face suspensions under Article 46 of the Collective Barganining Agreement, which covers conduct detrimental to the league. After weighing their options, it appears that the current Packers are choosing not to risk a suspension.
Reports from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and USA Today’s Tom Pelissero indicate that Matthews and Peppers (along with Harrison) have agreed to hold interviews, thus avoiding the threat of suspension for now. These reports both result from the two media sources obtaining a copy of a letter from the NFLPA to the league which in strong language agrees to the meeting but classifies the league’s handling of this situation as “public shaming” and “bullying.”
While Harrison agreed to the meeting on his terms and on a date of his choosing, less information is known about the Packers’ players giving in to the league’s demand. The Packers players were not mentioned in the Harrison letter, but Mortensen’s sources noted that the two did agree to a meeting at an unknown time and place. The NFLPA will apparently be present as well in “an advisory capacity.”
Neal, however, is the one player who as yet has not chosen to interview. As a free agent, he is in a bit different a position from that of his fellow players and former teammates, and if he remains off a roster he would not miss game checks as a result of failing to cooperate. If he continues to hold this position and chooses to fight the league, Neal could end up being the legal test case for the Players’ Union against the Article 46 provisions as applied in this situation.
Stay tuned. However, if the league indeed has no evidence to support the claims in the Al-Jazeera report, this should wrap up the situation for Matthews and Peppers quickly while the NFLPA still may have a chance to fight the commissioner in the case of one player.