Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: The NFL's Battle Against Drug Cheats Continues

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterApril 11, 2018

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 03:  Thomas Davis #58 of the Carolina Panthers reacts before a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 3, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Skepticism over Thomas Davis' explanation of his failed drug test. A warning sign for the deep quarterback draft class. And Coach T.O.? All this and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.

     

1. The NFL's cat-and-mouse PED game

I've always thought of Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis as one of the NFL's true good guys. A lot of people around the league do. And he is. 

He's a leader both on the Panthers and in the community. He's a seven-time team captain and is one of the best linebackers of his generation. Three years ago, he won the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Awardone of the most prestigious honors an NFL player can earn—which is named after one of the classiest athletes ever.

"I mean, just being here tonight is something that's positive for me," Davis said while accepting the award. "Just knowing where all I've come from. Sitting there looking at the video, seeing my hometown and seeing all the stuff that I've been able to overcome throughout my career. I'm just excited to stand before you guys tonight."

That now seems like eons ago.

Davis revealed Friday that he received a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. That makes him yet another example of how while you are at work or Netflix and chilling, there is a battle brewing in the NFL every second of every day over PEDs. 

Thomas tweeted out a video to "share the news":

"I was completely caught off-guard by this. I've never in any way done anything to try to intentionally cheat the game. It's one of those situations where the NFL rules are clear. They state that you are responsible as a player for what you put in your body.

"I've taken the same supplements for the last seven or eight years and never had any issues. Been tested numerous times over the years while taking the same stuff. And you know, unfortunately, these are some of the things that happen when you take supplements. I've never tested positive for a steroid or HGH—it's not one of those situations. It ended up being an estrogen blocker that triggered a positive test for me.

"I just want you guys to know that in no way would I ever do anything, like I said, to cheat this game or to try to create a competitive advantage over anybody."

The problem is, we've heard these explanations before. And we know that most of the time, the users win the battle against the NFL. But on occasion, the testers do. And when they do, it's significant.

That's why current and former players who spoke to Bleacher Report said they aren't buying the story Davis is selling in his video. They believe he did cheat. The supplement excuse isn't new to them.

The players know the science. When a player takes artificial testosterone, his body stops producing it. Instead, it produces estrogen. Sometimes, high levels of estrogen can be detected through the NFL's testing procedures. Certain levels can cause failed tests. That's why you'd use an estrogen blocker, though it can also cause a failed test.

Regardless of what the chemistry may or may not be in Davis' case, the interesting thing is what it symbolizes to the players who spoke with B/R.

They say most players caught under the NFL's program aren't first-time PED users. That first failed test typically indicates the player had been using something undetectable, but either he got sloppy or the league found a new way to detect it.

Players also suspect the NFL is paying close attention to the Panthers because of the team's recent history. Defensive lineman Charles Johnson received a four-game suspension in 2017 for violating the league's PED policy. Backup offensive lineman Chris Scott was suspended for four games for a PED violation in 2016. Defensive lineman Wes Horton received the same punishment in 2015.  

Trust me on this: The league watches these sort of trends closely.

Maybe Davis is telling the truth. Maybe it was all an accident. Maybe it isn't his fault. Maybe the NFL was wrong, or the supplement manufacturer added something. Maybe the players who spoke with B/R are wrong. Maybe whatever.

But it's hard to give a player the benefit of the doubt in this ongoing PED war when we've heard these types of excuses so many times before. 

         

2. Another quarterback disaster looming?

The 1999 QB class:  Tim Couch, Daunte Culpepper, Donovan McNabb, Cade McNown and Akili Smith
The 1999 QB class: Tim Couch, Daunte Culpepper, Donovan McNabb, Cade McNown and Akili SmithEzra Shaw/Getty Images

It's possible (maybe even likely) at least five quarterbacks will fly off the board in the first round of this year's draft: Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson.

If the draft does unfold that way, it would be the first time that happened since 1999. That year, the Browns selected Tim Couch first overall, the Eagles took Donovan McNabb second, the Bengals drafted Akili Smith third, the Vikings grabbed Daunte Culpepper 11th and the Bears took Cade McNown 12th.

Among that group, McNabb was the only one who had a great career. Culpepper's was solid. The rest, especially Couch and Smith, were tremendous busts.

Point being: It might look like a great quarterback class the day after the draft. But we also might look back on it as an all-time disaster.

           

3. Teams still love Lamar Jackson

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

Lamar Jackson's popularity is continuing to rise. Rapidly.

Sources with teams that have interviewed the Louisville quarterback in the weeks after the combine tell B/R they have been impressed with his intelligence and football acumen.

The sources also believe the Patriots are the team most interested in Jackson.

      

4. Ray Lewis needs to shut up

Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis has said some dumb things. We don't need to go down the list. But what he said Monday on FS1's The Herd with Colin Cowherd may have been the dumbest yet.

He said Giants star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is having issues because he needs God.

There are numerous problems with this statement, but the most obvious one is that Lewis was once charged with two counts of murder. He eventually pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice after lying in that murder investigation.

Meanwhile, Beckham has never been arrested. Aside from some odd videos and pictures, he has never gotten into a whiff of trouble off the field.

Yet he's the one being accused of acting godlessly? Really?

This has become increasingly common with Beckham. People in the media are making him out to be a bad dude, one who's in need of saving. He has his faults, but we should remember that he's not, well, Lewis.

      

5. Could Brady get a new deal soon?

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

Think about this for a second: Tom Brady, the best quarterback of all time, currently has an average salary of $20.5 million per season.

Yes, that's quite a bit of money. Almost as much as the 10-Point Stance editorial staff makes.

However...

That salary makes Brady only the 16th-highest-paid quarterback in football, according to Spotrac. Sixteenth! He's behind Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, Matthew Stafford, Drew Brees, Derek Carr, Andrew Luck, Alex Smith, Joe Flacco, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan.

Rodgers is the only player who you could argue deserves to be paid more than Brady.

Jeff Howe of The Athletic discussed the subject of Brady's salary in an article Tuesday. While Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Brady's contract isn't an issue at the moment, I find it difficult to believe it will stay that way.

      

6. Julio Jones and Terrell Owens

Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution included an interesting nugget in this story about Matt Ryan's excitement to have Julio Jones back and practicing this offseason.

Ryan told Ledbetter that "he's heard Jones is working out or has consulted with" Hall of Famer Terrell Owens this offseason.

"T.O. is one of the best workers of all time," Ryan said. "He learned from Jerry Rice and kind of modeled his stuff after that. I think the more you surround yourself with guys with a work ethic like that, it's a good thing. Julio has a great work ethic, too. He's one of the best-conditioned and best-working athletes that I've ever been around."

I've always believed Owens could be a tremendous coach. He has the respect of the players, and as Ryan said, his work ethic is legendary. Even the best receivers could learn from Owens.

      

7. The Raiders aren't worried about Khalil Mack

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 25: Khalil Mack #52 of the Oakland Raiders smiles prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on December 25, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Raiders star pass-rusher Khalil Mack didn't show up at voluntary camp this week. I can tell you the Raiders aren't worried. At all.

The team believes it will sign Mack to a long-term contract extension sometime soon.

Mack is in the final year of his rookie deal. The Raiders want to get a deal done, I'm told, and Mack does as well. It will get done.

      

8. History of the Packers

This 10-part documentary on the history of the Packers looks amazing.

And it's actually needed. There are a lot of works on Vince Lombardi or Brett Favre, but there aren't many solid ones on the history of the Packers themselves.

      

9. Farm leagues

Eric Gay/Associated Press

One thing to remember about all of the new football leagues popping up, and one thing only: To the NFL, they aren't competition. They're preparation.

The NFL views all of them as feeder leagues, immensely helpful in preparing men to play football at the highest level. That includes the Spring League, the new version of the XFL, the Alliance of American Football and, of course, college football. College football most of all. 

A good example? The Raiders had two scouts at the Spring League watching Johnny Manziel, according to ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert. Manziel could have played in Canada (and perhaps will eventually), but by using the Spring League as a showcase, he allowed NFL teams to see him training and in game situations they might not otherwise see.

And at no cost to the NFL.

These leagues, in other words, are a bargain for football.

      

10. A goodbye

Please allow 10-Point Command a personal moment.

One of the more talented communications people I've ever known, Randall Liu, is leaving the NFL office after 18 years. Every journalist I know who covers the league will miss him.

When he becomes president of the United States, hopefully he'll remember the little people.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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