During his annual tour of select NFL training camps, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue made a stop at the Carolina Panthers' training camp facility, where he discussed a broad range of topics with reporters.
On the NFL's position regarding the federal government possibly mandating drug testing programs for all pro sports leagues: "I think that our program is very strong. I've said that many times. There are things we‘re trying to learn that maybe we can do better," Tagliabue said. "Last year we announced a major financial commitment to additional research. There are tests we're looking at for some substances that currently there is no test for. We're hopeful that if and when Congress acts, that they'll 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 don't meet those standards, then you'd have to step up and meet those standards. If there is to be legislation, we would hope it would be along those lines.
On what progress has been made for a test on human growth hormone: "This is an area that gets very, very technical. I'm always leery of thinking that I'm a scientist when I'm not. There is a test that has been in the works. People have been looking at it for several years. Our scientific team has had meetings with other organizations that are trying to develop testing for some Olympic-related organizations. As I mentioned the other day, it was used on a limited basis in Athens at the Olympics in 2004. As to when it might be certified as reliable, I'd only be guessing. I know that's the question our people are looking at.
On if the steroid and human growth hormone problem is more widespread than previously thought: I don't see anything at this point to suggest that. It looks like it was an isolated endeavor by a physician, but I'd rather answer that in a definitive way after I see the final report.
On the state of the league: I think we're in a very strong position because of the talent in the league. There has been a lot of emphasis and discussion about the great, young players and the transition from the generation that was led by guys who are now in the Hall of Fame, the John Elways, the Dan Marinos, the Steve Youngs that we saw last month up in Canton and other players who were huge factors in the NFL from the mid to late 80's up until the end of 2000. Now, we've got this new generation of players. We can start with the quarterbacks, the Donovan McNabbs, the Michael Vicks, the Peyton Mannings, and your own Jake Delhomme. But it's just not the skill positions or the quarterback position. It's offensive and defensive linemen, Julius Peppers-type players. Great athletes. I guess the Cowboys think they've got a linebacker who's the next Lawrence Taylor. As long as we have players like that who can play the game great and do positive things off the field and connect with the community, I think the state of the League is very strong. The NFC South division is kind of typical. We've had three teams from this division in the NFC Championship Game three years in a row: Atlanta, Carolina and Tampa Bay. If you look at every division, they don't have that track record but they have the potential for that kind of a thing. With Minnesota being as strong as it is, Green Bay hoping to see a Super Bowl before Brett Favre decides that he's going to hang it up, Detroit coming back strong with Steve Mariucci and Lovie Smith in Chicago. Every division is extremely competitive, and that's a great way to start the season.
On if the publicity of the Terrell Owens situation bothers him: I don't want to comment on any particular player. But I think the thing that troubles me and troubles people in the league is that we have 2,800 players, and they are all out here working extremely hard to be part of a team and to win as a team because this is the ultimate team sport. Then, so much attention gets showered on a few people who for one reason or another have a contract dispute or may be less mature than you would like them to be or are not getting the kind of advice maybe they should be getting. It's a distraction, and I think the biggest concern I have is it detracts from the other 2,800 guys who are working hard and playing as a team and expect to win as a team.
On progress toward extending the collective bargaining agreement: I saw Gene Upshaw (last week) out in California, and we're going to be meeting again soon and stepping up our efforts. I think we both realize that there is an opportunity now in September and October before our league meeting in late October to really get beyond where we are now and work something out. It's going to be the number one priority, and it has been the number one priority for quite a few months, as you know. It's going to even rise to a new level. I'm going to get some additional owners involved in the collective bargaining. In the past, that's been important to have me at the table but to have a few key owners who are leaders in this area also involved. We're going to do that, and hopefully, we'll get this thing done.
On if the owners are united or if there is still a gap between the large and small-market teams: "I think to some extent on the internal revenue sharing and cost sharing issues we've been chasing our tail, because we don't know what the goal is with the Players Association. I've been saying for months that the two questions are linked together. The one that has to be clarified and resolved first is what's the deal with the Players Association, and then I think we'll have a target to shoot for and we'll get a consensus within the league to support that and reach that target."
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