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Ten-Point Stance: Can Congress push NFL, union into HGH deal?

by | National NFL Insider
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NFL legend Dick Butkus testifies during a congressional hearing on HGH testing on Wednesday. (AP)
NFL legend Dick Butkus testifies during a congressional hearing on HGH testing on Wednesday. (AP)

The memorandum from the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform asks a question at the beginning of a document called -- "HGH Testing and the NFL: Is the Science Ready?"

Interesting question, sure, but it's what's at the end of the document that seems to unintentionally answer Congress' own question. Those final paragraphs read: "Identifying and punishing users of performance-enhancing drugs, such as HGH, in professional football and other sports, protects the integrity of the NFL and other leagues, as well as the health of their players. More importantly, as NFL players and other professional athletes are role models for millions of young people, the absence of HGH testing in these sports remains a serious concern. Implementation of a robust HGH testing program in the NFL sends a message to young athletes that the professional athletes they admire do not tolerate performance-enhancing drugs at the sport's highest levels.

"Every week of football played without a test for HGH endangers the game and sends a message to young athletes that HGH is tolerated at the game's highest level. Since the CBA was signed on August 4, 2011, youth leagues, middle schools, high schools and colleges have played two entire football seasons without HGH testing at the professional level.

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"This Committee has made great strides over the past decade in pushing professional sports leagues to actively confront the use of performance-enhancing drugs. This hearing will examine the science behind current HGH testing and highlight the fact that this testing is available to use in the NFL."

In other words, the mission statement of this hearing, which begins on Wednesday, is to ask the question: Is the science reliable enough to test NFL players for HGH? But in the document's conclusion, without any witnesses being interviewed or testimony being taken, Congress concludes the answer is yes.

Then why hold hearings?

Dog, meet pony. Pony, say hello to Fido.

Are the hearings a farce? Maybe. Yet it's possible their mere presence could force a deal to get done. That's because just having them is a form of pressure on the league and union to strike an HGH deal.

Congress wants feet to the fire, in front of cameras and the media and the public, as a way to speed along an HGH deal. That may be sneaky and silly but, again, it could work.

It almost worked last year. Congressional aides and the NFL prematurely said a deal had been struck. It hadn't. Yet it was close.

League and union officials say a similar scenario could happen this week. One league executive estimated the chance of an HGH deal being struck at 70-30 while one union official said privately it was 50-50. I'd say 40-60.

Whether a deal is made depends on just how nasty Congress intends to get with football. Last time, it got pretty nasty. This time, it could be the same.

Both the players and NFL agree that an HGH testing policy is needed. It's actually necessary for a safer league. As long as HGH is in use, the arms race remains, and the collisions will get nastier.

The NFL says the science is solid; the union doesn't trust some of it. That's the core of the impasse.

What Congress is trying to do is force a compromise, thus the pooch and equine show, and boy does Congress know how to put on a pooch and equine show.

This one, however, might get some results.

Woof woof.

2. And I say again: this by Dr. Ben Wedro is one of the best medical blogs going. The speculation is that Robert Griffin III will try to play this week, but as Wedro points out it's mostly a matter of how much pain Griffin can take and the type of sprain RG3 has is far more painful than most people realize. "RG III may be able to play," writes Wedro, "but only if signals from his brain to his leg asking it to run are stronger than the pain signals returning from his knee to his brain asking him to limp."

Quick non-NFL aside: The info in Wedro's blog about Manny Pacquiao's CT scan is alone worth the price of admission.)

3. The suspension of Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall for conduct detrimental to the team has been a long time coming, I'm told. The final thing that forced the hand of Pittsburgh's coaching staff was the fact Mendenhall did not attend Sunday's game after being deactivated, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Mendenhall has irritated coaches all season with what was described to me as a non-caring attitude. There's little chance Mendenhall returns to the Steelers next year. My guess: He ends up in San Francisco.

4. Speaking of the 49ers, coach Jim Harbaugh, weeks later, is having no second thoughts about going to backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick over Alex Smith. That's to be expected. I'm also told few players in the locker room are having doubts. That's not to be expected. Players usually second-guess everyone and everything. Players second-guess the mailman. Not with Kaepernick.

5a. Champ of the week: Tom Brady. Four TD passes against Houston.

5b. Chump of the week: The Letterman jacket.

5c. Tweet of the week: Now suspended 49ers runner Brandon Jacobs: "I am on this team rotting away so why would I wanna put any pics up of anything that say niners. This is by far the worst year I ever had, I'll tell you like I told plenty others." Jacobs said this on Instagram and has more tweets than carries this year for the 49ers.

6. Unbelievably, the Jets can still make the playoffs ... and the Mayans chuckle confidently to themselves.

7. If you don't think ex-commissioner Paul Tagliabue handled the Bountygate case with extreme skill and, yes, cleverness, you are a fool. He deserves honorary NFL executive of the year.

8. In light of the tragedy in Dallas, consider this: The NFL for several years now has wanted discipline for a first-time DUI to be a two-game suspension without pay. The union, I'm told, has resisted. That could change.

9. I can't find anyone in the NFL who knows Alabama's Nick Saban well and believes he'll return to the pros next season. No one. Which means he will.

10. No one on the Ravens is saying if there was one, final epic battle that led to the dismissal of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. But there had to be one and it had to be a Fantastic Four versus Galactus type fight. Now, everything is on quarterback Joe Flacco. No more excuses.

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