NFL: Week 8

Goodell wants law changed

Cites league drug policy challenges

Associated Press / November 3, 2009

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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell plans to ask Congress for legislation that would protect collective bargaining agreements from state law challenges, like the one that led to blocking the suspensions of two players who tested positive for banned substances.

“We believe that a specific and tailored amendment to the Labor Management Relations Act is appropriate and necessary to protect collectively bargained steroid policies from attack under state law,’’ Goodell said in prepared testimony for a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing yesterday in Washington. He said recent court decisions “call into question the continued viability of the steroid policies of the NFL and other national sports organizations.’’

A copy of Goodell’s testimony was obtained yesterday by the AP.

The NFL attempted to suspend the Vikings’ Pat Williams and Kevin Williams for four games, but the players sued the league in state court, arguing the testing violated Minnesota laws. The case was moved to federal court, and the players union filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of the Williamses and Saints players who were also suspended.

In May, a federal judge dismissed the union’s lawsuit and several claims in the Williamses’ case - but sent two claims involving Minnesota workplace laws back to state court. A judge there issued an injunction prohibiting the NFL from suspending the players and has scheduled the trial for March 8. In September, a federal appeals court panel agreed with those decisions, essentially allowing the Williamses to continue playing while the case proceeds in state court.

The use of state law to block the suspensions, Goodell said, “illustrates with compelling force the need for legislation here.’’ He complained that the Williamses, who are not related, are able to work under different conditions than players outside Minnesota.

“Professional athletes and their collective bargaining representatives should not be permitted to manipulate state statutes as a means to gain a competitive advantage,’’ Goodell said.

He also criticized the NFL Players Association.

“With the help of the NFLPA, the Vikings players have been able to prolong their litigation for almost one year now,’’ Goodell said.

The Vikings players tested positive in 2008 for the diuretic bumetanide, which is banned by the NFL because it can mask the presence of steroids. The players acknowledged taking the over-the-counter weight loss supplement StarCaps, which did not state on the label that it contained bumetanide. Neither player is accused of taking steroids.

Browns GM ousted
Browns general manager George Kokinis left the club under unexplained circumstances. After reports surfaced that he was fired, the team issued an awkwardly worded statement last night saying the GM “is no longer actively involved with the organization.’’ The Browns also denied reports that Kokinis was escorted from their team headquarters. Kokinis’s apparent ouster came after owner Randy Lerner said he wanted to hire a “strong, credible, serious’’ football adviser to help run his struggling team. Kokinis was hired Jan. 23, two weeks after the Browns named Eric Mangini as their fourth coach since 1999. Lerner said he is “sick’’ about the state of his team but will not make a coaching change. Cleveland dropped to 1-7 after Sunday’s 30-6 loss in Chicago. Afterward, an upset Lerner told reporters he would not fire Mangini during the club’s bye week. Lerner also plans to meet today with some longtime season ticket-holders who were organizing a protest to show their disgust. The fans have been urging others to stay away from their seats for the opening kickoff of the Browns’ game against Baltimore Nov. 16.

Give them a break
Jets coach Rex Ryan said his team is “definitely sick about’’ the way it has dropped four of its last five games and he is giving his players six days off as well as pushing his assistant coaches out of the team’s facility by Thursday. He wants his entire team to use the bye week to get away from football and put what went from a promising start to a disappointing downhill spiral behind them . . . 49ers left tackle Joe Staley is wearing a bulky brace on his sprained right knee and cornerback Nate Clements’s broken right shoulder blade is in a sling. Injured during San Francisco’s 18-14 loss at Indianapolis Sunday, both are expected to miss at least this Sunday’s home game with the Titans. They will probably also be sidelined for the following game, Nov. 12, against Chicago. Staley has never missed a game in three seasons. Clements has sat out just one game in seven seasons . . . The Chiefs, apparently fearful of losing in arbitration, agreed yesterday to cut Larry Johnson’s suspension in half for making gay slurs. The agreement saved the running back about $315,000. The Chiefs issued a terse announcement saying they had made the settlement in conjunction with the NFL Management Council and the NFL Players Association. Originally, they suspended the former two-time Pro Bowler two weeks, which would have cost him about $630,000. He will still miss the game at Jacksonville this week and not participate in team activities until Monday.

Chambers axed
The Chargers released wide receiver Chris Chambers a day after he had a key catch in a 24-16 win over the Raiders. Coach Norv Turner said Chambers was released because of the emergence of Malcom Floyd and the need to sign a linebacker because of an injury to Tim Dobbins on Sunday . . . The hits just keep on coming for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has been sacked a league-leading 31 times in seven games. Rodgers limped away from Sunday’s loss to the Vikings with a sprained toe on one foot and a nagging sprain on the other. Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Rodgers could miss time in practice this week but is expected to play Sunday at Tampa Bay . . . Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin hopes to play at Chicago this week despite aggravating a right ankle sprain in the third quarter of a 34-21 loss to Carolina on Sunday. He left the game and did not return. “If I’m able to run, I’m going to play football,’’ Boldin said. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Boldin is day-to-day . . . Houston tight end Owen Daniels has a torn knee ligament and will have season-ending surgery. Daniels, who injured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, was hurt on Houston’s second possession in Sunday’s win at Buffalo when he caught his foot in the turf. Coach Gary Kubiak said Daniels will have surgery in about two weeks after swelling has gone down.

Del Rio livid
Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio ripped his defense for allowing 305 rushing yards in a loss to the previously winless Titans. “I don’t know if any explanation will make anybody feel better,’’ Del Rio said. “When you see it on film, it is insulting, ugly, and embarrassing.’’ . . . The Bills expect to add James Hardy to the active roster as the second-year receiver has shown he’s fully recovered 10 months after left knee surgery. Hardy began practicing just two weeks ago.

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