Two key congressmen emerged from an hourlong meeting with the NFL and players union and announced a deal to begin blood testing players for human growth hormone. Minutes later, NFL Players Association officials would commit only to testing when a fair and safe system is in place - what they’ve been saying all along.
After yesterday’s high-profile mix of sports and politics, HGH testing in pro football didn’t seem closer to reality.
“We’re not guaranteeing any outcomes except there was an agreement to begin testing immediately,’’ Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told reporters after the meeting. “The other aspects of what you do with the tests will be resolved over the next many weeks, and we’ve agreed on a bipartisan basis to have the committee play a role if necessary’’ to bring the sides together again.
Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee, said he felt the sides benefited from being called in. He stressed that the lawmakers wanted action now: “Not get there next year - we were clear that the ball has to move down the field immediately.’’
But the NFLPA didn’t seem inclined to move off its previous position: That it wants questions answered before moving ahead with a blood-testing program.
“We believe that we have to report back to our players, make sure that the protocol and the testing protocols are safe,’’ union spokesman George Atallah said. “Once we feel that way, which we hope will be as soon as possible - obviously the chairman and Congressman Cummings can help us facilitate that - we’ll be in a position to start testing as soon as possible.’’
The latest collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players includes a provision to begin testing players for HGH - contingent on the union agreeing to the testing.
Peppers may miss Vikings
Bears defensive end Julius Peppers, who did not practice this week after spraining his left knee in Monday night’s loss at Detroit, is doubtful for tomorrow’s game against the Vikings. “I don’t know if they’ll completely change the game plan, but I’d say you’ll have an entirely different attitude not having Julius Peppers on the football field,’’ Bears coach Lovie Smith said of the Vikings . . . Meanwhile, Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield is doubtful with a neck injury. Winfield did not practice all week, but ran sprints yesterday, although coach Leslie Frazier said Winfield would have to show significant improvement by today to be considered for the game . . . The Packers, without left tackle Chad Clifton for an indefinite period because of a hamstring injury, will get back right tackle Bryan Bulaga for the Rams after missing two games with a knee injury. Marshall Newhouse, who replaced Bulaga, is expected to take over for Clifton. However, safety Morgan Burnett broke his right hand in practice Thursday and didn’t participate in yesterday’s workout. He expects to play, and was fitted for a cast.
Steelers’ line: 6 for 6
Steelers rookie tackle Marcus Gilbert will miss tomorrow’s game against the Jaguars, meaning Pittsburgh will start its sixth combination of offensive linemen in six games. Former starting left tackle Jonathan Scott will start in Gilbert’s place on the right side. Gilbert injured his right shoulder three weeks ago and aggravated the injury last week. Scott - since replaced at left tackle when Max Starks was signed last week - came in for Gilbert at right tackle . . . Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith and nickel back Drew Coleman passed post-concussion tests and were cleared to play against the Steelers, and defensive end Aaron Kampman will start after missing the last 13 games because of a knee injury . . . Eagles starting left tackle Jason Peters will be out indefinitely with a hamstring injury, and his replacement, King Dunlap, missed a second practice because of back spasms.
Meriweather fined for hit
Bears safety Brandon Meriweather, who lost his starting job last week, was fined $25,000 by the NFL for a hit that resulted in an unnecessary roughness penalty Monday. It is not Meriweather’s first fine: he was tagged $50,000 for a helmet-on-helmet hit on Todd Heap last season. The NFL also fined Ravens running back Ray Rice $7,500 for grabbing the facemask of Rams cornerback Bradley Fletcher, a play that did not draw a penalty flag.