NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue Visits Carolina

On Thursday, August 25, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue visited the Panthers on the practice fields, as he does every preseason. He watched practice, talked to the media, and also had a chat with the team, thanking them for the "great job that they do, not just on the field but off the field working in the community."

The subject of substance abuse and steroid regulation were bound to come up when the Panthers organization was visited by the man who is trying to implement changes to the steroid detection policies. He was quizzed about the federal government and their possible intervention in the NFL's policies, to which he responded that he'd like to see a legislation passed that allowed the government to step in only if the league doesn't meet federal requirements. "We¹re hopeful that if and when Congress acts, that they¹ll legislate in a way that would say if you meet these certain federal standards with your collective bargaining agreement, then your program would continue as it is. If you don¹t meet those standards, then you¹d have to step up and meet those standards. If there is to be legislation, we would hope it would be along those lines." He also stated that the NFL was putting forth a significant amount of money toward the detection of substances that are currently not detectable by existing testing methods.

Not far from the topic, Tagliabue answered questions about the current steroid scandal and Dr. James Shortt's involvement with the Panther's organization. "No one within the Panthers organization was in any way, shape or form involved with any of these players who were playing outside the lines," he said in response to recent developments in the case. On if any players were to be suspended due to the allegations, he replied "Based on what I¹ve heard to this point, it would be virtually impossible to have found that any player violated the program the way the program exists. Given the testing capabilities that are out there, I think the main goal has been to get reliable information and then to have any player who is still in the League subject to ongoing reasonable cause testing on a very comprehensive basis."

The NFL Commissioner went on to praise some of the players individually, including Jake Delhomme and Julius Peppers, and talked about the transition from the players from the 80's who were just inducted into the Hall of Fame to today's stars. He mentioned that in the past three years, the NFC Championship game has been played by teams in the NFC South division, further showing the strength of the division. Tagliabue harped on the fact that any team can be competitive any year, and that helps the NFL strengthen its position as one of the best sports leagues in the nation.

He concluded his press conference by talking about how he will spend the next two months with the team owners to try to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. Commissioner Tagliabue called it "the number one priority" and that these next two months will see a step up in the attempts to get the agreement settled for the next few years.

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