The NFL and NFL Players Association met last week to discuss solutions to revive HGH testing talks, which have stalemated over Commissioner Roger Goodell's power in the appeals process, league and union sources said Thursday.
The sides have been in contact since, but there hasn't been any movement on the central issue. The NFL has been adamant that Goodell retain final say over appeals in evidentiary cases and cases involving the law. The former would encompass circumstances like baseball's Biogenesis case, and the latter would include findings based on, for example, arrests and grand jury testimony.
The league and players' union agreed in principle to HGH testing in early August, with the overall drug policy's appeals process being the sticking point preventing a comprehensive deal.
According to union sources, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has not been the one railing against Goodell retaining power in the appeals process. It has been the player reps who are unwilling to go along with the league's desire to keep the commissioner in place as the appellate officer. The players, according to sources, have used Goodell's handling of the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal to explain why they're unbending on the matter.
Time will come into play here, too. The union and league have been informed that it will take two to three months to complete a population study. While the sides seem amenable to the less-ideal scenario of collecting blood from all players on regular-season rosters -- rather than all players on the larger training-camp rosters -- to set thresholds through the population study, the lag time in setting those thresholds makes the thought of sanctions against offenders in 2013 increasingly less likely.
The plan has been to collect blood en masse, then start the testing protocol after that. Then, once the threshold for a positive test is set, sanctions will begin. That means players whose blood initially is collected after the population study would be subject to sanctions a couple months down the line. So if a comprehensive agreement came in November, it's unlikely the threshold would be set in time to suspend players during the 2013 season.
An additional part of the tentative agreement involves the population study. If more than 5 percent of all players test over an agreed-upon threshold, then those players will be subject to more frequent reasonable-cause testing, which includes an immediate test after the population study and could lead to punishment.
Dialogue between the league and union on this matter has been consistent and is expected to continue.