Union's Smith says NFL won't bully players on HGH
INDIANAPOLIS -- The head of the NFL Players Association insists the league won't "bully" its way to a test for human growth hormone.
At his annual Super Bowl news conference, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said talks continue in a bid to resolve the impasse over adding HGH to the NFL's testing program -- six months after the labor deal ending the lockout included a provision to allow checking for that performance-enhancing drug once players approved the process.
Originally, the league hoped it could start testing for HGH as soon as Week 1 of this season. Now there's no certainty it'll happen by the beginning of next season.
"No one will bully us into a test," Smith said Thursday. "No one will force the players to accept something that's unfair. How could we?"
The union has raised questions about the detection methods and appeals process.
"We are going to continue to fight and ensure that due process is something that is not thrown away at the expense of just having the test," said Smith, who is up for re-election in March.
A year ago this week, he fielded question after question about then-ongoing negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. Eventually, there would be a lockout -- NFLPA spokesman George Atallah referred Thursday to the "L word" -- before a new 10-year labor deal was signed.
"We have had a tumultuous and event-filled year in the business of football, but it is a great feeling to stand here today knowing that the conversations about our business and our union will not be about how to save them but about the agenda we are looking to set so we can grow them together," Atallah said.
Smith said the issues of most concern now are current players' health and safety, health care for former players, and painkillers, a topic not frequently discussed in such settings.
Smith spoke about confronting the "issue of painkillers and the use of painkillers, not only on game days and practice days, but how that issue of using painkilling drugs continues to be an issue for our players and our men and their families long after football is over."
Asked about last month's announcement that the St. Louis Rams would play one game in London in each of the next three seasons, Smith said that plan "raises some significant concerns about the health and safety of the players, given the transportation, given the jet lag. ... One significant issue for our players is the length of time they have to travel in planes before and after games."
He said he thought the London games should be discussed by the NFL and NFLPA.
Smith also did not rule out the possibility of returning to a discussion of an 18-game regular season, something the NFL pursued at the outset of labor negotiations.
"The lesson from the ... lockout and the labor fight was that it is important to consider everything," Smith said.
BREES TALKS DEFENSE: Record-setting Saints quarterback Drew Brees thinks the Giants-Patriots Super Bowl might be more of a defensive struggle than expected.
The Giants and Patriots have two of the NFL's top offenses -- but also two of the weakest defenses.
"It's interesting how those games shake out, though," Brees said Thursday at an appearance for NFL PLAY 60 at Super Bowl headquarters. "The minute you start talking about two high-powered offenses, the defenses take exception to that and they come out and play exceptionally well."
Case in point: During the 2007 season, the Patriots beat the Giants 38-35 in the regular-season finale, and a few weeks later, the Giants won the Super Bowl 17-14 and ended New England's bid for a perfect season.
"Anything can happen," he said, declining to predict a winner. "You're talking about two great teams, two great coaches, two elite quarterbacks. So it should be a great game."
BRANDON THE BOXER: Giants running back Brandon Jacobs is proud of his athletic achievements on the football field -- and in the boxing ring.
Although it's been a long time since Jacobs put on boxing gloves, he readily brings up his 35-2 record as an amateur heavyweight.
He won the Louisiana AAU state championship before giving it up and sticking to football at Southern Illinois.
"They are two whole different sports," Jacobs said. "Nothing about them is the same.
"Boxing is not a team sport; everything depends on you in that ring. In football, one guy can rely on another to help him succeed. In boxing, if you don't succeed, it's only because of you."
Jacobs makes it sound as if he wasn't much of a stylist in the ring. Now 6-foot-4, 264 pounds, he was a bit less imposing physically back then. Not much less imposing, though.
"I'd go in and catch `em with a few good left hands and stop them. It never got to the point that I knocked anybody out cold," he said. "I have no regrets about boxing, and I still got the true AAU state trophy at home. It doesn't matter if you knock out someone or not."
Jacobs didn't need to debate long which sport to pursue.
"I wasn't certain if I wanted to do it," he said about boxing, "and if you have doubts or questions about doing something that dangerous, you shouldn't do it."
RECORDS IN JEOPARDY: Super Bowl records could fall when two of the top five passing attacks in the NFL take to the air on Sunday.
Tom Brady's New England Patriots averaged 317.8 yards passing, second most in the league. Eli Manning's New York Giants ranked fifth at 295.9. Kurt Warner has the three most productive games in Super Bowl history, topped by the 414 yards he threw for when the St. Louis Rams beat the Tennessee Titans 23-16 in 2000.
Brady and Drew Brees share the record for Super Bowl completions with 32. This season, Brady averaged 25.1 completions, Manning 22.4.
Receiving marks also could be erased. Each team vying for the Lombardi Trophy has three dangerous pass-catchers: Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez for the Patriots, and Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham for the Giants. Welker led the NFL with 122 catches, 7.6 per game.
Rice holds the record for most yards receiving with 215.
AP Sports Writers Cliff Brunt, Howard Ulman and AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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