SBD/September 9, 2011/NFL Season Preview

Goodell Expects HGH Testing Soon, But Players Still Have Some Questions

Goodell noted the NFL can implement new HGH testing during this season
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Thursday night said a testing system for HGH in NFL players is "ready to go as soon as we get the green light" from the NFLPA, and he expects it is "going to go" at some point this season. Goodell spoke prior to Thursday night's Saints-Packers game to NBC's Bob Costas, who noted there has "been a holdup" in adding the testing. Goodell said, "We did agree in our collective bargaining agreement that we would start HGH testing with the regular season. The union wanted to get some additional information that's been provided to them. I think it's important for us to implement it as soon as possible for player health and safety and also for the integrity of the game. I expect that we'll be hearing from them shortly to get it implemented." Costas asked if Goodell was concerned the union was "trying to cover for some players who may be using HGH.” Goodell: “I'm not as concerned about that as I am the fact that we should have implemented this with the start of the regular season. We had more than sufficient time. It had been negotiated … over a lengthy period of time and I don't think there's anything new that's developed since we agreed to it” ("Football Night In America," NBC, 9/8). More Goodell: "If players are taking it -- and it's my expectation that some are -- that's bad for their health. ... It's also an integrity-of-the-game issue. We want our players performing without the need for performance-enhancing drugs" (FOXSPORTS.com, 9/8).

PLAYERS STILL HAVE QUESTIONS: NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith Thursday said that “players have serious questions about the safety and reliability" of HGH testing. He added that WADA “has not turned over the information the players’ association has requested and will not agree to the test until that time.” Smith: “The one thing that we don’t know is what that population test looks like. Who was included in that study? What were the ratio levels? Were they tested, or was that populations tested in conditions or similar situations that would mirror professional athletes? I don’t know.” Broncos S and NFLPA Exec Committee member Brian Dawkins “believes players will approve HGH testing eventually -- maybe even this year -- once everything has been reviewed.” Dawkins: “We’ve never shied away from the fact that (HGH) needs to be tested. But it’s just doing it the right way and going about it in not such an invasive way as far as some of the things were considered here recently” (AP, 9/8).

STATS IN THE STADIUM: NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy said that the league is "directing all 32 clubs to display real-time fantasy football stats at all home games" for this season, starting with Thursday night's Saints-Packers season opener. USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy noted that it had been "up to individual clubs to decide if they wanted to show player stats from outside games.” But the NFL “wants fans at live games to feel as plugged in as they would be on their couch at home.” League HQs will be “shooting all teams real-time fantasy stats -- and directing them to post on video boards for fans in the stands” (USATODAY.com, 9/8). Fantasy Sports Trade Association President Paul Charchian said, “This is a dramatic change from where the NFL was even 5-6 years ago. The NFL has come to realize fantasy is not gambling, it’s not tainting the game. It’s creating millions of super fans with allegiances that extend beyond their geographic favorite team.” Goodell in an e-mail to NFL fans on Thursday "stressed the importance of the stadium experience, and this new fantasy policy seems to address that aim” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/8). But in Oakland, Monte Poole writes, "Attending an NFL game, a tradition in every city with a franchise, has lost much of the magnetism it once held.” Fans can get a "better game experience, at a lower cost, at home or in a sports bar.” Poole adds, "No sport provides more vivid and comprehensive TV experience than football, and TVs have never been more vivid and complete than they are in the 21st century” (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 9/9).

PLEASE ACCEPT THIS APOLOGY: In Boston, Shalise Manza Young noted Goodell's letter "essentially thanks fans for their patience during the lockout." Goodell wrote in part, "All of us in the NFL appreciate your patience and understanding through what was a most unusual and challenging off-season. Now we are ready to enjoy what the NFL is all about -- great players, great fans, intense competition, the performance and passion surrounding America’s most popular game. … Be assured, however, that we believe in better. Players, owners, coaches, team and league staff -- working together -- will be putting our collective foot on the accelerator. We have more work to do to improve our league and game on a variety of fronts. We will do that by continuing to focus on the quality of the game and innovation. And we will do it relentlessly” (BOSTON.com, 9/8).
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