Source: New deal could reduce bans

The NFL and its players are closing in on finalizing a new drug agreement that would bring with it HGH testing and major changes to the marijuana policy and could result in the reduction of punishments for currently suspended players such as Josh Gordon, Wes Welker and Orlando Scandrick.

A source close to the negotiations told ESPN.com the players could vote on the new drug policy as early as Friday, and that one of the reasons a vote wasn't being conducted Thursday was because two teams -- the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers -- were playing in the Thursday night game and thus not in position to vote.

Some legal wrangling could still remain that could delay the announcement. But the source said a condition of the new policy would be that certain players currently serving drug suspensions under the old policy would have their suspensions altered to reflect the new policy.

That could mean an immediate reinstatement for Welker and a reduction of Gordon's one-year suspension to something in the range of six to 10 games.

Other key changes to the drug policy include:

• The standard for a positive marijuana test would be raised significantly from the current 15 ng/ml of THC, though not all the way up to the current Olympic standard of 150 ng/ml, making it harder to test positive. According to Gordon's account, his most recent positive test would not have been a positive test at all under the new policy.

• After a first positive marijuana test, a player would have his case reviewed after one year by a clinician, who would have the power to remove the player from the drug program if he met certain standards of behavior and cooperation. As it currently stands, a first positive test places the player into the drug program for the duration of his career. The new policy would effectively allow a player to reset to the beginning and treat a next positive test as a first.

• The league would agree to allow for neutral arbitration of all drug case appeals, including those for HGH.

• The union would agree to blood testing for HGH but would be allowed to challenge the scientific validity of the test in the appeal.

• A positive test for amphetamines in the offseason would be adjudicated under the policy for drugs of abuse (such as marijuana), though a positive test for amphetamines during the season would still be handled by the policy on performance-enhancing drugs, as it is now.

The league and the union have been at work on changes to the drug policy for several years but have been held up on the issue of neutral arbitration for certain specific disputes and appeals.