‘Suspended’ players helping their teams
It’s worth noting that two of the most important players on two of the five undefeated teams in the NFL are playing -- and playing well -- despite having been suspended for violation of the NFL’s policy and program on substance abuse.
Pat and Kevin Williams are vitally important players for the 4-0 Vikings, and Will Smith and Charles Grant are big parts (six sacks between them) of the defensive renaissance for the 4-0 Saints. All four tested positive for a banned substance present in a StarCaps product they were using -- Bumenatide --and were suspended last season for violation of the policy. However, as detailed here, in an astonishing result in both federal and state court in Minnesota, the players' cases have been remanded to state court for consideration of the merits of their claims. That hearing in state court won’t take place until after the 2009 season.
There are steps being taken to try to rectify the situation. Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith have issued a joint statement affirming the need for, and importance of, a uniform testing policy applicable to all NFL players (in all states). And the House Energy and Commerce Committee has just called for hearings next month to debate this troubling result. Nonetheless, the rulings in Minnesota throw things at least into a temporary state of confusion and uncertainty regarding the testing policy.
Unable to impose discipline over the Williamses in Minnesota, Goodell has also put the pending suspensions of Smith and Grant -- who tested positive for the exact same substance -- on indefinite hold because of what he referred to as "competitive balance" issues. Even though the laws in Louisiana are not as employee-friendly as Minnesota, the commissioner rightly decided that competitive balance trumped enforcement of the drug policy in this case.
As a result, Pat and Kevin Williams play on for the Vikings and Smith and Grant play on for the Saints in what may be special seasons for them and their teams.
Little did we know that a three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals could have an effect on the competitive balance of the NFL right now.
Other thoughts as we head into the weekend...
If Rush Limbaugh invests in the ownership group that ends up with the winning bid for the St. Louis Rams, the term “silent partner” will never be the same.
I certainly understand the Jets not wanting to reward Braylon Edwards with a new contract upon his arrival. Without a new Collective Bargaining Agreement entering an uncapped year, Edwards will be a restricted free agent in March, having only five years of service instead of the six that will be required for free agency. And coming off an assault accusation the other night, leverage is certainly not on his side now.
I know the football world wants to see Florida quarterback Tim Tebow play Saturday against LSU, but do we really know if two weeks is enough time for medical clearance for the violent concussion he suffered? He certainly wants to play, as do his team and coach, but after all the dementia-related news over the past week, this has to be a medical decision, not a football decision.
It’s entirely true that there’s too much media focus on the negative behavior of athletes and not enough on the positive. What Lofa Tatupu is doing in Seattle -- matching the first $10,000 donated by fans in a collection effort toward the disaster in Samoa and Tonga -- certainly deserves mention. No matter how Tatupu plays on Sunday, he’s been an inspiration this week.
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