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Volume 24 No. 156

Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Senior VP/Law & Labor Policy Adolpho Birch on Thursday suggested that the NFLPA was “holding up an agreement to begin testing for human growth hormone because it was unhappy with other aspects of the 18-month-old collective bargaining agreement, including the commissioner’s authority in disciplinary matters,” according to Judy Battista of the N.Y. TIMES. Birch said, “I do think there is an effort to go back and revisit a lot of things that were agreed to, negotiated on extensively and agreed to.” He later added, “There is absolutely no reason for this to have taken this long and us not have testing implemented. We should have been more than a year into this by now.” NFLPA reps earlier this week said that players “wanted the right to appeal the science of the test.” Birch said that the league’s “latest offer to the union, submitted before the Super Bowl, included the ability to challenge the science of the test, even though the league believed that undermined a system that both sides would agree to implement" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/22). Birch said that the players' “primary objection to the testing has moved from an insistence on a population study to concerns with an appeals process and that the union has tried to raise issues not connected to HGH testing.” Birch: “We put forward a proposal that addressed every one of the stated concerns that they had concerning the appeals process." NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir of External Affairs George Atallah responded to Birch's claims later Thursday, saying, "The false characterizations Adolpho made today about the NFL's HGH proposal bring us no closer to a fair, safe and effective testing protocol" (, 2/21).

THIRD PARTY: Birch said that the league has “proposed appeals to an independent third party and appeals that would allow players to challenge the science behind the testing, as players have said they wanted.” Birch: “We were talking about a population study for the better part of a year and a half. Now we’re apparently talking about appeals processes and independent or third-party arbitration, which has been on the table and part of the proposal since 2009, 2010." (, 2/21). In Green Bay, Weston Hodkiewicz noted the NFL under current parameters is “not allowed to comment on what players tested positive for, something Birch hopes to change with its proposed testing measures.” Birch: “One of the features of the MLB appeals system that we have proposed from the beginning has been to be able to disclose the substance that formed the basis of the violation.” Still, Hodkiewicz wrote it “doesn’t appear either side is close to finding a resolution” (, 2/21).

TAKING ATTENDANCE: YAHOO SPORTS’ Jason Cole wrote there are “two people conspicuous in their absence” at this week’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis -- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith. A source said that Goodell and Smith were “trying to meet privately in Washington, D.C., to iron out their lingering differences.” But the concern among some is that not having Goodell and Smith present “is a problem when they are the two leaders in the best position to help push through any agreements that may ultimately happen.” Giants President & CEO John Mara said, "It's a fair point." One coach said, "The players weren't as sharp with their points because Roger and De weren't there. I just think it creates a different atmosphere when they're in the room.” He added, “We need to have that.” Cole wrote, “At the end of the day there was a sense of disappointment among many in the meeting” (, 2/21).

NFL Competition Committee officials on Thursday at the scouting combine “spent some of their time discussing the possible expansion of the playoff field from 12 to 14 teams,” according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy said the committee’s deliberations on the issue were in “still just the early stages.” Murphy said that it also was “not clear whether a proposal to expand the playoff field could generate sufficient support among the sport’s team owners to be enacted.” Murphy: “It’s hard to tell at this point.” Maske noted the possibilities include “expanding the playoff field by one team in each conference” or by four teams. Murphy: “I think there would be more support for one. Then you still have one team that would get a bye. In some ways, that might make that more valuable.” An expanded postseason “potentially also could be paired with a reduction in preseason games, perhaps from four to two per team.” Murphy: “You have to look at it in context. Will there be other changes tied into it? … I think they could (be paired together). I think so” (, 2/21).

SAVE THE DATES:’s Adam Schefter cited sources as saying that the NFL is “proposing an overhaul to its offseason calendar, pushing back the combine to early March, the start of free agency to early April and the draft to early May.” The plan must be approved by the NFLPA, but the league "already is pushing it aggressively.” All NFL teams under the proposal “also would kick off training camp on the same summer day, making it the official launch of the football season” (, 2/21). Meanwhile, former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli noted there is a three-day window in March where teams can negotiate with free agents, and there is “something being created here whether we realize it or not.” Pioli: "What we’re creating here is this signing date for the NFL that’s going to become another made-for-TV event." Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio wondered if there could be free agent WR Mike Wallace “sitting there with the Dolphins hat, the Chiefs hat, the Bills hat, and he’s going to pick one up and he’s going to put it on.” Pioli: “It may be that, but it’s certainly going to be another opportunity for the NFL and its clubs to sell itself” (“PFT,” NBC Sports Network, 2/21).