If you were hopeful that Pittsburgh Steelers veteran James Harrison, and Green Bay Packers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers would stand up to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and his as-the-wind-blows approach to discipline, prepare to be disappointed.
Harrison, Matthews and Peppers, along with free agent Mike Neal, were named in an Al Jazeera America report last year tying them to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. There does not appear to be any hard evidence confirming their use, and none have failed tests recently administered by the league.
Still, however, Goodell decided to flex his muscles and demand that they speak with league representatives. On Monday, the league sent Harrison, Matthews and Peppers a letter demanding they meet with NFL questioners by Aug. 25 or they would be suspended until they agreed to talk.
Harrison, who said earlier in the summer that the only way he’d talk was at his own home, and only with Goodell present, told reporters on Tuesday that he hadn’t decided whether he’d acquiesce to the NFL’s demand.
But something has changed, because according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, Harrison, Matthews and Peppers have agreed to talk, with Harrison meeting with the league on Aug. 29 at the Steelers’ facility.
ESPN acquired the letter the NFL Players Association sent to the NFL on Harrison’s behalf, and the linebacker said he would answer questions pertaining only to the segment in the Al Jazeera America report that mentioned him. It isn’t know whether the league will accept.
It is unclear when Matthews and Peppers will meet with the league. Neal has not yet agreed to talk.
The NFLPA’s letter to the league on behalf of Harrison, written by union counsel Heather McPhee, claims the NFL “has decided to ignore its collectively-bargained agreements and try to bully and publicly ‘shame’ a veteran player-employee who has repeatedly asked a simple, eminently reasonable question about his employer’s investigation:
“Is the NFL aware of any credible evidence – other than the recanted remarks by one individual show by Al-Jazeera – that indicates that there is any validity to the remarks about Mr. Harrison?” [Emphasis theirs]
The letter to the players threatening suspension, which was signed by league vice president Adolpho Birch, required that they not only must “submit to an interview but also [have] the duty to provide meaningful responses to the questions posed.”