Much has been learned in the last week about the policy and what players go through, with new information surfacing each day. The report linked the players with a substance called Bumetanide and it is believed the players were unknowingly taking it in a weight-loss pill called StarCaps, which didn't list the ingredient and marketed itself as an all-natural product.
Bumetanide is on the list of banned substances because it can be used as a masking agent for other drugs, including steroids. The NFL's policy is clear on their banned substances: Players are responsible for whatever is found in their body.
They are not supposed to go to the team's trainers or doctors for advice on which products are considered safe and which aren't, but the NFL contracts with the National Center for Drug Free Sport to administer a toll-free hotline that players can call with questions about substances.
Then, in a radio interview with NFL Sirius Radio last week, Vikings wide receiver Bernard Berrian called into question the responsiveness of those handling the hotline.
"You've got to take some responsibility and call in to that hotline [to inquire about the legality of certain products]. But I know one thing about that hotline: I've called twice before and actually never gotten a hold of anybody sometimes. So even when you do try to do the right thing, sometimes it is still hard to get a hold of somebody and really find out what you're really taking," Berrian said.
Asked to expand on that by Adam Schein, one of the hosts, Berrian said, "I called twice one time because I was taking something that was kind of fairly new and I wanted to make sure, you know, that it wasn't illegal, and I'd get suspended for taking it. So I called twice and asked about it but I never got a response. And then finally on the third time, I finally got one. So you know, I mean, it's hard sometimes and you try to do the right thing sometimes, [and] it still doesn't work in your favor."
While that interview brought the hotline under scrutiny, Berrian said in another radio interview later in the week on KFAN that he actually got the information he needed the same day.
"That's good to hear," NFL spokeman Greg Aiello told Viking Update via e-mail. "We contacted our service (National Center for Drug Free Sport) earlier this week and it did an internal investigation. All calls are to be returned promptly after the subject of the call is properly researched. The service researched the call log since June and we were assured that all messages have received a response. We also plan to contact Bernard to review it with him and make sure he is satisfied."
While Berrian needed to call the hotline three times before getting an answer, he did get his question answered on the same day he started his inquiry about a relatively new protein beverage that he was given the OK to use. In the case of the bigger defensive linemen, the issue appears to be about weight-loss pills they were reportedly taking that didn't list the banned substance, and Berrian brought up a legitimate point about that during the Sirius interview.
"Some guys are bigger and really do need the help sometimes," he said. "There is a lot of stress put on making weight every week so you don't get fined. It's something they should definitely take a look at."
In fact, in Brad Childress' first training camp as head coach of the Vikings in 2006, Pat Williams started camp on the physically-unable-to-perform because he wasn't deemed to be in good enough shape. It was a rocky beginning to the relationship between the new head coach and veteran defensive lineman, but they appeared to quickly patch things up and reach an appreciation for each other.
The problem now is that fans are left to wonder what really happened with the Williamses. The team and NFL won't comment on specifics of the case since the drug program is supposed to be confidential. However, we asked the league if the players would even be able to defend themselves given the fact that Kevin and Pat Williams have both declined to talk about specifics of the case.
"An individual player is certainly free to discuss his own information if he chooses," Aiello said.
While Pat Williams told the Pioneer Press that he is upset about how this makes him look in the eyes of kids that view him as a role model, it would appear that he has the chance to set the record straight and say for sure what happened, at least with his case. Maybe he doesn't want to damage his case if it is on appeal right now, but until he a ruling is announced by the league – the Vikings don't comment on NFL policies – or the players say what happened, the Vikings and their fans will be forced into wait-and-see mode.
USA TODAY MIDSEASON ALL-PROS
Jarrett Bell of USA Today picked Washington's Clinton Portis and Atlanta's Michael Turner over Adrian Peterson as his
He selected Steve Hutchinson as his left guard with this analysis: "Still consistent, blowing open holes amid issues that disrupted offense."
Antoine Winfield was also selected as an all-pro cornerback by Bell. "At 5-9, 180, great pound-for-pound value; maybe NFL's most underrated playmaker," Bell wrote.
NOTES AND QUOTES
In the base defense, Napoleon Harris is expected to get his first start after coming off the bench in the last game against Chicago and playing most of the contest. "He'll probably admit that he was a little rusty, just getting the calls and getting them sorted out in his head, transitioning from Kansas City's defense to ours," Leber said of Harris. "I think the terminology is really what set him back in the first game. Physically and moving around, I think he looked pretty good. It's just going to be some time before it becomes second nature. He knew what to do, but I think there was just that split second – we talked after the game – that I think he just had to make sure in his mind that he was making the transition from one defense to another."
S Darren Sharper on Harris: "Talking to him, he was asking me some questions … that's with any player that's coming into a scheme that's different than the one he was on before. He was in Kansas City and he probably would do things a little bit differently. But he's going to get accustomed to what we're doing and he's a smart guy. It shouldn't take him long at all. You should see him this game definitely play a lot faster than he did last game."
"We've definitely made a focus on lowering our third-down percentage," Sharper said. "Thirty-three percent is our goal. If we can hold teams around that conversion rate, we feel our chances of winning will be a lot better. Just knowing what they like to do, what routes they like to run, what combinations they like to do on third down and also just having a strong first- and second-down defense and making those third downs long … will make it tough for Houston to convert."
Sharper's right. The Texans lead the league on first downs as well, which should help with their third-down conversion rate.
"They don't hurt themselves and that's a big factor in any game. That's what gives you a better chance to win," he said. "The fact their third-down percentage is so high, there are a lot of factors that add to that. They've done so well on first and second down to make that third down so manageable and they also have had guys make play when they have had chances to."