FRIDAY, 4:17pm: In a series of several tweets, Hill passes along the latest on the negotiations: Per multiple sources, there’s no chance anything gets finalized today, and the two sides still aren’t sure about the retroactive lifting of suspensions, and how it would apply to domestic violence incidents as well as drug-related penalties. One roadblock has been the NFL’s desire to suspend players immediately upon an arrest for suspicion of DUI, rather than a conviction, which the NFLPA doesn’t intend to agree to.
12:40pm: NFLPA executive George Atallah (on Twitter) says there’s no sense of urgency from the players’ side in overhauling the drug policies. In his estimation, it seems that the league is planting stories to infer that a deal is close.
11:25am: The league is now wary of opening up Pandora’s box by retroactively lifting suspensions, Hill tweets.
10:16am: Sources tell Clarence Hill Jr. of the Star-Telegram (on Twitter) that the new drug policy is very close to getting done. When and if the new policy is enacted, Orlando Scandrick‘s suspension will be lifted immediately.
8:39am: Under the new proposed policy, the 29 players suspended for stimulants since 2011 would’ve been entered into a program without a suspension, Breer tweets. On the flip side, 22 players who were assessed five-figure fines for DUIs would’ve been suspended (link).
8:28am: NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith told 106.7 The Fan in Washington D.C. that he’d want all players busted during the 2014 league year to be penalized under the new rules, tweets Albert Breer of the NFL Network. “If we get a deal done that covers players in this league year, I don’t like that we punish players under a deal active in the old league year,” Smith said (link).
Breer’s understanding (link) is that a revised policy would raise the threshold for an A sample on a marijuana test from 15 ng/ml to 50 ng/ml, the same threshold used by MLB and the military. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that Gordon’s failed drug test reportedly took place in the 2013 league year, so he wouldn’t necessarily be off the hook if the league and the NFLPA agreed to adjust the current drug policy (link).
THURSDAY: We learned earlier today that the while the league and the NFLPA have intensified talks regarding implementing HGH testing and overhauling the current drug policy, union president Eric Winston has cautioned that an agreement isn’t quite ready yet. If negotiations proceed quickly, two players affected by the policy — Josh Gordon and Wes Welker — might be able to return to the field soon, reports Mike Florio on NBC (link via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk).
Per Florio, one alteration to the new policy would raise the THC threshold for triggering marijuana-related bans; Gordon, of course, was suspended for the 2014 season after his sample tested barely over the THC limit. Another change to the policy would transfer amphetamine use from the performance-enhancing umbrella to the substance-abuse realm. A first-time PED offense triggers an automatic four-game ban, while a substance-abuse incident does not.
If the proposed rule changes grandfathered in already-suspended players, Gordon, Welker, and others that are currently facing bans could return to action. In fact, Florio noted that if the deal between the NFL and the union gets done in the next few days (which is unlikely), the two star receivers could potentially play on Sunday. Welker, of course, might still be limited by his latest concussion, but nevertheless, it would be a stunning reversal of fortunes for the Broncos, Browns, and other teams who have lost key players to drug suspensions. It’s unclear if the suspensions would merely be lessened, or if they’d be vacated completely.
Meanwhile, Albert Breer of the NFL Network hears (Twitter link) that retroactive penalty changes aren’t what’s holding up discussions of a new deal — rather, DUI policy is the “[number one] hangup” in negotiations. We heard last week that commissioner Roger Goodell wants a mandatory de-activation and two-game suspension for DUI offenders, a stance the NFLPA has fought. Breer adds that Sunday is being treated as a “soft deadline” for talks, as union representatives probably don’t want negotiations dragging into the season.
Zach Links contributed to this post.