NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell expressed confidence in early February that a testing program for human growth hormone will be in place by the start of the 2013 season.
The NFL and the NFL Players Association are now closing in on a deal, with just a few sticking points remaining, Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports reported Friday night.
While the NFL has agreed to turn over appeals of all positive drug tests to a third-party arbitrator, the primary holdup is Goodell's appellate power on "other appeals" -- offenses such as alcohol-related arrests and possession of marijuana or performance-enhancing drugs, Silver reported. The NFLPA wants the neutral arbitrator involved in those matters as well.
The players also are holding firm on the NFL's insistence that testing for HGH will occur on game day. Said one union source to Silver: "That is absolutely never going to happen."
Although Congress' House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is pressuring players to agree to a deal, the StarCap and Bounty scandals have left the NFLPA reluctant to surrender its ability to appeal to an outside party.
As the remaining holdups come down primarily to specific language in the proposals, there is confidence that the ice will break in the next month. The NFLPA is expected to submit an offer to be considered during the annual league meeting from March 17-20 in Phoenix. Both sides are expected to return to the bargaining table not long afterward.
If the 2011 lockout taught us anything, however, it's that deadlines spur action. Don't be surprised if the HGH agreement comes down to the buzzer in early September.