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NFL to interview players named in Al Jazeera report

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NFL senior vice president of labor policy and government affairs Adolpho Birch has informed the NFL Players Association that the players named in the December Al Jazeera America report alleging performance-enhancing drug use are set to be interviewed in July.

In a memo obtained by NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, Birch outlined a plan to interview Green Bay Packers linebackers Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison on the first day of their respective training camps. The interview for former Packers linebacker Mike Neal, currently a free agent, is scheduled to take place on or before July 22. In addition, league spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed the NFL is planning to interview retired quarterback Peyton Manning, who is also named in the report.

The NFL is conducting the investigation, Birch emphasized, because the Al Jazeera America documentary "raised serious issues concerning their possible violation of the NFL/NFLPA Policy on Performance-Enhancing Substances."

The process has been delayed, per Birch, due to a lack of cooperation from the NFLPA.

"While the investigation has proceeded, we have yet to interview the players," Birch wrote. "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 a statement released by the NFLPA on Monday, the organization stressed the NFL has not provided it any additional evidence of PED use by players beyond the recanted statements made in the documentary.

"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 statement read. "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."

McCarthy said the interview process is one part of the NFL's investigation into the conclusions reached in the Al Jazeera America report.

"The NFLPA and NFL are obligated and have a shared responsibility to look into allegations that could impact the integrity of competition on the field and the health of our players," McCarthy said. "We have been obtaining and reviewing numerous records, conducting multiple interviews and working with other entities. We have made no conclusions but the report merits a review, including interviews with the players named."

Manning has vehemently denied accusations he used human-growth hormone or PEDs during his recovery from neck surgery in 2011.

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