NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell quickly received both criticism and support from current players after his Monday comments that testing for human growth hormone must be included in any drug program in a new collective bargaining agreement.
Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason responded by calling the commissioner a "joke" during a Tuesday interview on a Baltimore radio station.
"He needs to stop crying about blood tests and HGH," Mason said on WJZ-FM, according to USA Today. "He needs to try to get a (labor) deal done, that's what he needs to do. He's been on this crusade about HGH, but he needs to be on a crusade about getting these owners together and trying to work out a deal. To me, he's a joke, because every time I look, he's talking about performance enhancements instead of talking about trying to figure out a way to make sure football is played in August."
New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie begged to differ, writing Wednesday on his Twitter account: "Jus was reading an article about HGH testing in the NFL. I'm for it I'm not against it. If u against that mean you hiding something."
Cromartie went on to add: "i mean u shouldn't have 2 cheat 2 get an edge just go out an play ball. God created us all differently so us the talents he blessed us with."
HGH use is prohibited by the NFL, but the league's old CBA didn't have testing for it. Goodell said Monday that he believes players "recognize the importance of" adding HGH tests.
The NFL Players Association has opposed blood tests in the past but said last summer it would be open to hearing a proposal from the league during CBA talks. Goodell said HGH testing was "part of a broader proposal on where we go with our drug program."
NFLPA spokesman George Atallah declined to comment Monday.
Goodell's comments came in response to a question from a high school student about why there is more drug use in baseball than football. Goodell began his response this way: "I'm not sure that's true."
While making sure to emphasize that he believes the NFL's drug-testing program is a strong one, Goodell acknowledged that it can be improved and said the league will insist that its next labor deal with players -- whenever there is one -- includes testing for HGH.
"We'd be naive to think that people aren't trying to cheat the system. But we have to have the best testing program to be able to offset that," Goodell told reporters after joining Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, to speak to area students at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County.
"I made it clear to the kids in the room today that the integrity of the NFL is critical, and we need to make sure we're doing everything possible to have the best drug program in sports," Goodell said. "Making changes to our program is critical, and we have done that over the years. We need to do more, including the inclusion of HGH testing."
Preventing athletes from using HGH is a key target in the anti-doping movement. The substance is hard to detect, and athletes are believed to choose HGH for a variety of benefits, whether they be real or only perceived -- including increasing speed and improving vision.
CBA negotiations broke off March 11, and the old deal expired. The NFLPA said it would no longer function as a union, and a group of players filed a class-action antitrust lawsuit in federal court in Minnesota. The owners then locked out the players. A hearing began Wednesday in St. Paul, Minn., on the players' request for a preliminary injunction to lift the lockout.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.