NFL to Interview Players Connected to Al Jazeera America Report on PEDs

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured Columnist

January 16, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Green Bay Packers inside linebacker Clay Matthews (52) before a NFC Divisional round playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Packers 26-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL will be conducting interviews with three players who were tied to performance-enhancing drugs by an Al Jazeera America report from last December.

According to an article published on June 24 by Tom Pelissero of USA Today, NFL Senior Vice President of Labor Policy and League Affairs Adolpho Birch said in a letter to NFL Players Association counsel Heather McPhee that the league was expected interview Green Bay Packers linebackers Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison when their teams opened training camp at the end of July. 

While July has come and gone, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported the league plans to interview the three players prior to the start of the season.

Pelissero noted the letter said that former Packers linebacker Mike Neal, who is a free agent, will be interviewed "on or before July 22." He added that an inquiry into Peyton Manning "has been progressing," but the former NFL MVP is no longer in the union as a retired player.  

Per an article published on June 24 by Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, all four players "are and have been willing to submit to interviews," with the main delay being related to the league and players union being unable to "reach an agreement on the scope of the interviews and other factors relevant to the process."

On Monday, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told Florio the league will also speak to Peyton Manning, despite a report from The MMQB's Peter King that stated the league would not meet with the quarterback.

The NFLPA released a statement on June 27 regarding the NFL's communication with the players and NFL. TheMMQB.com's Albert Breer also provided the NFLPA's letter sent to the NFL on on June 28:

The NFL has chosen to initiate an investigation of these players based upon now-recanted statements that appeared in an Al Jazeera report. The NFLPA requested from the NFL any additional evidence supporting an investigation of the players; the NFL did not provide any such evidence, nor did they inform the NFLPA or the players that any such evidence exists.  Instead, the NFL has decided to publicly pressure the players into submission. We will continue to advise our players about their rights and hold the NFL accountable.

The NFL has been planning to speak with the players named in the Al Jazeera America report for some time. League spokesman Joe Lockhart told NFL Media's Ian Rapoport in May (via Austin Knoblauch of NFL.com): "We have been working with U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and Major League Baseball since these allegations were raised. Working with the NFL Players Association, we expect to talk directly to the players sometime next month."

Charlie Sly, a former intern at an anti-aging clinic, made the PED use allegations, which a documentary that aired on Al Jazeera America covered, with athletes from the NFL and Major League Baseball being named.

Sly recanted his allegations against the athletes by calling himself an unreliable narrator, per Justin Wm. Moyer of the Washington Post.

All of the athletes named in the documentary have denied the allegations. Manning told ESPN's Lisa Salters he was "disgusted" by the accusations and said the notion he would take anything illegal to get back on the field is "a freaking joke."

Matthews told reporters the allegations are "100 percent falsified, fabricated information" and that he's never talked with or even met Sly.

The NFL's letter states that "in fairness to all, including the players involved, we must move forward with the interviews" and they "will be advised of the specific scheduling details by separate correspondence on which the NFLPA will be copied, and of course an NFLPA representative may attend each interview should the player so request."

Packers players reported at training camp July 25. Steelers players reported to camp July 28.

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