The NFL’s ongoing investigation of Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers into their alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs is a complicated song and dance between the league and the NFL Players Association.
Deciding who to support in this simmering controversy, however, was “easy as pie” for Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson.
“We’re going to support our players,” Thompson said in prepared remarks at the start of Tuesday’s news conference. “We’ve always supported our players and we will continue to support our players. This is no different in this case.”
Thompson went on to say that he would not have any further comment into the matter. Thompson was asked five more questions on the subject, refusing only to answer whether Matthews and Peppers have spoken to league investigators now that the NFL has placed an Aug. 25 deadline for them to do so. If they don’t submit to interviews, they’ll be suspended indefinitely starting on Aug. 26, the date of Green Bay’s preseason game at San Francisco.
Neither Matthews nor Peppers were in the locker room during a media session scheduled directly before Thompson’s press conference.
Matthews and Peppers are among the players who were implicated in an Al Jazeera America documentary for using performance-enhancing drugs. The man behind “The Dark Side” allegations, a former intern at an anti-aging clinic, has recanted what he said in hidden-camera videos that aired in late December.
While the NFL has cleared Peyton Manning, who also was named in the documentary, it continues to press forward with investigations of Matthews, Peppers, former Packers linebacker Mike Neal and Steelers linebacker James Harrison. Speaking during the first day of camp, Matthews said the NFL “know(s) where to find me.”
However, according to the league, the interviews have not taken place, despite repeated requests.
With the NFL’s clock ticking, there’s no doubt more behind-the-scenes maneuvering is taking place between the league and the union. Nonetheless, there’s at least a small chance that the Packers will be without two of their premier defenders for the Sept. 11 opener at Jacksonville.
Thompson said there are no contingency plans in place should there be suspensions, but did add, “You’d rather have those players than not.”
Thompson is in a difficult spot. He’s not a league employee, but his boss, Mark Murphy, works closely with the league in his role as the Packers’ president.
Thompson, however, needs Matthews and Peppers in the lineup.
Still, he’s got his players’ backs.
“I think everybody’s going to have an opinion on things. It is what it is,” Thompson said. “I’m sure there’s a lot of people that don’t understand what’s going, that would include probably most of the people in this room, including me. It’s a little more complicated than you might want it to be. But I think the more people pipe in, especially somebody like me, into the whole serenade, the less likely it is that it will work itself out.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.