The NFL Players Association has released a statement, per Tom Pelissero, regarding the news that the NFL plans to interview players named in the Al Jazeera report including: Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, James Harrison, and Mike Neal.
“The NFL has chosen to initiate an investigation of these players based upon now-recanted statements that appeared in an Al Jazeera report. The NFLPA requested from the NFL any additional evidence supporting an investigation of the players; the NFL did not provide any such evidence, nor did they inform the NFLPA or the players that any such evidence exists. Instead, the NFL has decided to publicly pressure the players into submission. We will continue to advise our players about their rights and hold the NFL accountable.”
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, citing a source with knowledge of the situation, reports that the players named in the Al Jazeera report — Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, James Harrison, and Mike Neal — are and have been willing to submit to interviews.
In fact, Florio says that the players involved “insist that they have no concerns about the issue and, likewise, nothing to hide.”
However, Florio mentions that the delay in doing so arises from an inability of the NFL and NFL Players Association to reach an agreement on the scope of the interviews and other factors regarding the overall process.
According to Florio, the NFLPA is concerned about the precedent this situation could set, considering that the credibility of the Al Jazeera report has been called into question.
From the NFLPA’s standpoint, they want to ensure questioning players about PED allegations stem from credible reports and aren’t just claims surfacing online or from an anonymous tip.
Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports that the NFL has informed the NFL Players Union that league officials are planning to show up to the first day of training camp to interview three players named in an Al-Jazeera America report regarding performance enhancers and other drugs.
Former Packers OLB Mike Neal, who’s currently a free agent, will also be interviewed as well at some point before July 22, according to Pelissero.
The Al-Jazeera documentary named Peyton Manning as well, but the letter did not mention anything about him, according to Pelissero. However, a source mentioned to Pelissero that the inquiry has been progressing.
The allegations stem from comments made by former anti-aging clinic intern Charlie Sly, who was taped in the Al-Jazeera documentary. It’s worth mentioning that Sly has since recanted his quotes.
Pelissero adds that the NFL’s PED policy allows discipline on “sufficient credible documented evidence.” However, the NFLPA believe Sly’s decision to recant his quotes won’t compel cooperation.
Here’s the letter from NFL senior vice president of labor policy and league affairs Adolpho Birch:
“On January 11, 2016, the league notified Messrs. Peppers, Neal, Matthews and Harrison that it had initiated an investigation following the airing of the Al-Jazeera America documentary, which raised serious issues concerning their possible violation of the NFL/NFLPA Policy on Performance-Enhancing Substances. The players were further advised that, with their full and timely cooperation, the investigation would be conducted expeditiously and with minimal disruption.
“While the investigation has proceeded, we have yet to interview the players. We have attempted since early April to work through the NFLPA to schedule them, but despite multiple requests the NFLPA has failed to respond, except to seek reconsideration of the basis for the investigation. This continuing delay and avoidance has obstructed our ability to conduct and conclude the investigation.
“In fairness to all, including the players involved, we must move forward with the interviews. Accordingly, this will advise that the interviews of Messrs. Peppers, Matthews and Harrison will be scheduled for the first day of their respective training camps, and the interview of Mr. Neal (free agent) will take place on or before July 22. The players will be advised of the specific scheduling details by separate correspondence on which the NFLPA will be copied, and of course an NFLPA representative may attend each interview should the player so request.”
We’ll have more regarding the PED allegations as the news is available.