It shouldn't be the end of anything.
The Bucs discarded their former starting quarterback Thursday, only three days after the leak of his involvement in the NFL's drug program. ESPN reported Freeman's place in Stage 1 of the program, and Freeman quickly followed up by revealing his ADHD diagnosis.
The NFL player's union vowed to investigate the matter.
Commissioner Roger Goodell should actively do the same.
While the NFL plans to investigate the leak, according to an NFL.com report, Goodell needs to come front and center on this – now. He should not only publicly address the seriousness of the leak, but he needs to follow up with an adequately harsh punishment of whoever leaked the information – namely, the maximum fine and a suspension.
"This is a serious matter," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy wrote in an email to Yahoo Sports. "We will hold those accountable if we are able to substantiate the source or sources of the breach of confidentiality."
McCarthy further stated in a subsequent email, "We are seeking information."
It's hard to imagine anything more worthy of the commissioner's attention than the invasion of a player's medical privacy. This isn't just a football issue; it's a workplace issue. Whoever leaked Freeman's status created a hostile work environment for all NFL players.
"The confidentiality provision of our drug program is critically important," McCarthy wrote, "and a breach of that confidentiality by any party is a serious violation of our collectively bargained policy."
The punishment for such a breach is a fine of up to $500,000.
We don't know where the leak came from, and it's unfair to point to Bucs head coach Greg Schiano or anyone else in the Tampa Bay organization without proof. (Schiano denied any involvement.) But the implication from Freeman – and in the public eye – is that someone tied to the NFL is the culprit.
That perception alone warrants comment from the commissioner. Goodell has put himself front and center when players make mistakes, and if he has time to meet with Ndamukong Suh about dirty play on the field, he should make time to look into dirty pool off it.
Freeman has stated he voluntarily participated in the NFL's drug program in an effort to manage his condition – he suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – an admission that was a leap of faith for him. Effects of ADHD include implulsiveness and inattentiveness.
"A lot of times people with attention issues have to look for the cues," Michele Novotni, a Pennsylvania-based psychologist and ADHD expert, said. "They don't tend to pick up cues as easily as others."
That's not a trait someone wants to advertise if they're an NFL quarterback who is paid millions to master an incredibly intricate playbook and read defenses within microscopic time periods.
Now every single general manager in the NFL is going to look at Freeman differently, no matter how well he's handled his situation. Freeman is more of a risk today because of this leak, and that should alarm every single NFL player, because if Josh Freeman's medical records can be leaked, so can theirs.
Ask yourself this: If you're an NFL player and you have ADHD, or you're concerned about the amount of a prescription drug you've taken, or you have trouble concentrating or sleeping, are you more or less willing to tell a team doctor today than you were a week ago?
How that's answered should be cause for worry in the NFL's front offices.
The time for Goodell to speak out is now. He doesn't need to wait for the results of an investigation to address the significance of leaking medical records. If the commissioner isn't appalled enough to make a public statement, does the league really support confidentiality beyond pointing to guidelines and fines laid out in the collective bargaining agreement?
If he doesn't condemn leaks immediately, what's the incentive for any player voluntarily entering the league's drug program now?
Until now, Josh Freeman's situation had been a Bucs' issue.
Now, it's a league issue.
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