NFLPA's slow-footed probe of Josh Freeman case doesn't bode well for DeSean Jackson investigation

Eric Adelson

The union representing NFL players displayed a show of force over the weekend by launching an investigation into the Philadelphia Eagles' controversial release of DeSean Jackson.

The investigation echoes the show of force made by the NFLPA after then-Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman had his medical information leaked to the media last season.

That investigation, however, has so far turned out to be no show of force at all.

The alleged leak of Freeman's records to ESPN reporter Chris Mortensen happened in September 2013. Yahoo Sports reached out to the NFLPA for results of the investigation three times during the season and again in a media conference hosted by NFLPA president DeMaurice Smith during Super Bowl week. Smith said in February the investigation was "close" to being complete.

It's now April, and there's still no end to the investigation.

"[The] investigation is still not complete," NFLPA spokesman Carl Francis said via email on Monday. "A couple of interviews have been postponed. Both parties hope to have the process complete in the next six weeks or so."

The slowness of the Freeman investigation doesn't bode well for the Jackson investigation, which aims to examine whether the Eagles leaked "misinformation" to regarding the receiver's alleged ties to the Crips gang in California. That possible leak, although troubling, is not nearly as alarming as a leak of medical records. A player's private medical history should be as sacred and worthy of protection as any citizen's, and anyone who publicizes it shouldn't have a job in the NFL.

Which makes it perplexing as to why the investigation has taken so long. The NFL's investigation into the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal, which started later than the Freeman probe and involved more people, culminated in a lengthy report by Ted Wells. That report has led to a renewed commitment to workplace conduct, including a meeting this week between NFL owners and players to discuss rule changes that will cut down on the disrespect on the field and in the locker room.

Freeman is a free agent after finishing his tumultuous 2013 season with the Vikings. He worked out with the Chicago Bears on Monday, according to a report. The Bucs have purged their leadership ranks in head coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik. That doesn't mean the crisis has ended. For real closure, there has to be a definitive end to the NFLPA investigation and some sense of how this happened. Otherwise, the credibility of the investigation into Jackson's release is also imperiled.

The events of the past several months have led to a potential turning point in the NFL. Coaches, owners and officials are working in concert to make locker rooms more professional and the playing field more tolerant. The Dolphins' saga, the Freeman situation and the Jackson ordeal all challenge league personnel to make football careers about football performance and not about personal backgrounds.

That sounds a lot like a union initiative. It seems to be led, however, by the NFL itself.

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