On Monday, the NFL made an aggressive move in the lingering PED probe arising from last year’s Al Jazeera documentary, telling four players to submit to interviews regarding PED allegations or face indefinite suspensions for conduct detrimental to the league. A day later no decisions have been made by the affected players (Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, Steelers linebacker James Harrison, and free-agent defensive lineman Mike Neal) regarding how to proceed, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
The options are simple: Submit to the interviews, refuse to submit and fight, or attempt to negotiate terms of an interview with specific ground rules and limitations. It’s possible that some players will choose to submit, and that others will choose to fight. Ultimately, it’s a decision each player must make.
Fighting doesn’t necessarily mean accepting a suspension. However the issue is presented for resolution, by arbitrator, special master, or judge, procedures are available to resolve the conflict between the terms of the PED policy and Article 46 of the labor deal before anyone would miss a game check.
Of the four players facing suspension, Harrison presumably would be the most likely to fight. After all, it was the Steelers in 2011 who voted to reject the proposed CBA, due in large part to the Commissioner’s power. Although the rest of the rank and file weren’t willing to allow the lockout to extend into the regular season, the Steelers apparently would have.
Just last month, Harrison mentioned the Steelers’ refusal to endorse the CBA in response to the news that Tom Brady’s four-game suspension had become final. As a practical matter, this is Harrison’s chance, five years later, to take the stand that players on 31 other teams didn’t want to take, declining to be interviewed and directing the NFLPA to fight the league’s claim that the PED policy requires players accused of a violation to provide testimony that, in theory, could be twisted and warped and taken out of context to support a predetermined conclusion that a violation occurred.