Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers face difficult decision in PED investigation

Do players implicated in Al Jazeera America report owe NFL a conversation? (1:46)

Stephen A. Smith can't wrap his head around the reasons why the players implicated in the Al Jazeera America report won't have a simple conversation with the NFL. (1:46)

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Make no mistake about it, Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers want to clear their names.

Both Green Bay Packers defensive standouts made that clear on the first day of training camp, when they were asked at length by reporters about the NFL's mandate that they cooperate with the league's investigation into their alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. As far as anyone knows, neither Matthews nor Peppers has tested positive for a banned substance.

However, it was never that simple.

And now that the league has given them a Aug. 25 deadline to comply or face an immediate suspension, it's even more complicated.

It's a true dilemma -- a choice between two equally bad options -- for Matthews and Peppers along with free-agent Mike Neal and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison. If they agree to talk to the league, they would essentially be setting a precedent for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to haul in any player to the league office who was accused of something -- as these players were in an Al-Jazeera report back in December.

It's why the NFL Players Association, which serves the greater good of all players, has balked at cooperating. ESPN's Kevin Seifert offered solid reasons why the players should not cooperate.

On the other side of the dilemma is this: If they don't comply, then they're potentially hurting themselves and their team. The Packers need both Matthews and Peppers on the field in order to be the kind of defense that can get them back to the Super Bowl.

The Packers essentially built their offseason defensive plan around Matthews' move back to outside linebacker after playing on the inside the last season and a half. And for Peppers, who is 36 and in the final season of the three-year deal he signed with the Packers, this could be his last chance at that elusive ring.

When camp opened less than a month ago, both Matthews and Peppers deferred to the players union.

"I'm going to let the NFL and NFLPA kind of figure it out and be advised on what kind of the next step is," Matthews said on July 26. "It's been a long, drawn-out process, but we'll see once that time comes. Like I said in the past, I have nothing to hide, so it's not an issue for me one way or the other."

Peppers concurred, saying he was trying to focus on getting ready for the season not on "nonsense."

It will be interesting to see how, if at all, their viewpoints have changed given the NFL's ultimatum. As of Tuesday morning, the NFL Players Association said it had no formal response to league's latest demand.

Harrison said Tuesday that his offer to let Goodell come to his house and interview him still stands. Matthews and Peppers haven't said anything on the matter since the first day of training camp. Perhaps that will change on Tuesday.