Much can and will be written and said in the coming days and weeks regarding the six-game suspensions imposed on Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams and defensive end Ryan McBean for allegedly violating the league’s steroids policy, especially since Williams and McBean will file suit against the NFL in federal court on Monday.
Though the lawsuit, which will request that the suspensions be overturned under the Federal Arbitration Act, will focus heavily on gaps in the chain of custody regarding the samples, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that the case also may include an allegation that the NFL attempted to delay the issuance of a ruling in order to avoid disrupting the Broncos’ 2011 playoff run, led by quarterback Tim Tebow.
Williams’ statement hints at this contention in claiming that “[t]he hearing officer . . . engaged in inappropriate communications with top NFL officials about this matter without my knowledge or approval.”
The steroids policy, we’re told, requires a ruling within five days after the hearing. The hearing was held in December 2011.
According to a separate source, it’s possible that the league sought a delay because of negotiations with the NFLPA regarding broader issues relating to the league’s steroids policy. Regardless, Williams and McBean will argue that the league failed to issue a ruling on a timely basis, and that the NFL improperly communicated with the hearing officer (Harold Henderson, who also is a league employee) regarding the cases.
Most importantly, a week after the NFL pulled back the curtain on the Saints’ three-year system of putting bounties of opposing players, the Williams and McBean case could (key word, could) generate evidence and/or argument that the league manipulated their suspensions in order to help one of the 32 teams.
UPDATE 9:07 p.m. ET: NFL spokesman Greg Aiello provides the response to the notion that the league delayed the decision to help the Broncos in one word. “Ludicrous,” Aiello said.