With all the fuss about the salary cap hits given to the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, the decision made by the league in the last week that seems most vulnerable to reversal is the suspensions handed down to Denver Broncos players D.J. Williams, Ryan McBean and Virgil Green. On March 9, it was announced that Williams and McBean would each be suspended six games without pay, and Green suspended four games without pay, for violations of the league's policies on performance-enhancing substances. The process seemed sketchy at the time, as Williams pointed out in a statement, and as Green wrote on his Twitter account.
ESPN reported on Tuesday morning that Williams and McBean have filed suit against the NFL.
Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of the case is that the NFL contends the samples given by Williams and McBean were of the "non-human" variety. However, Peter R. Ginsberg, Williams' attorney, said that the since-fired specimen collector was a witness to the ... uh ... "sample collection."
From Williams, the day the suspensions were handed down:
I understand from media reports today that the NFL has announced a suspension based on a specimen that the NFL acknowledges did not contain steroids or any illegal substance. Instead, the NFL contends that I provided a non-human specimen.
I have never failed a test of any kind — for steroids or illegal substances — during my eight-year pro career. I am proud of my record and proud of the way in which I conduct myself as a professional athlete and citizen. We proved — conclusively — at the NFL hearing on this matter that the NFL and its specimen collector wholly failed in their duties to safeguard and process my specimen properly.
In fact, the specimen collector was fired by the NFL after compromising my specimen as well as others'. The hearing officer, an NFL executive, ignored the NFL's own Policy, engaged in inappropriate communications with top NFL officials about this matter without my knowledge or approval, corrupted the system, ignored that my specimen had been compromised, and now has subjected me to humiliation as well as suspension. We will be vigorously pursuing my rights in the judicial system.
My suspension is unjust; the NFL has undermined and corrupted its own steroid policy.
Green wrote on Twitter that "I was suspended for taking ADHD medication prior to approval from NFL. I have now been approved to take the medication to treat my ADHD. I apologize to my teammates, the Bronco Organization and my family and friends. Thank you guys for all your support."
According to ESPN's Josina Anderson, Green will not appeal his suspension, even though he's since been approved to take the drug for which he was suspended.
On Tuesday morning, the NFL Players Association released this statement:
The NFLPA is disappointed by the decisions in the cases of Ryan McBean and D.J. Williams. Despite substantial evidence of breaches in the collection protocol and other procedural irregularities, the NFL decided to punish these players without judicious review of the facts. The League-appointed hearing officer then affirmed the discipline, even though the specimen collector was fired by his agency for not following procedures. The NFL also failed to produce the sample collector as a witness during the players' appeals hearing.
The NFLPA and NFL have been negotiating a new and comprehensive Substances of Abuse and Steroids policies. The facts in these two cases and in recent cases in other sports, dramatically underscore the players' insistence to have independent, neutral arbitrators as part of any future policy. We will continue to fight for a fair, clean and safe game.
In other words, Roger Goodell's desire for HGH testing - -which needs agreement by the NFLPA before it will ever happen -- probably just took a pretty substantial hit. And the league may very well have to reverse course on this one as a matter of law.