The NFL Drug testing policy is in jeopardy in the Courts.

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To many, the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the NFL prohibiting them from suspending Viking DTs Kevin and Pat Williams for the first 4 games of the 2009 season might look like no big deal. Those people would be totally wrong. It is a huge deal involving several issues including the ability of the NFL and other professional leagues to suspend players for taking unauthorized drugs.

The drug involved in the Williams’ case is basically water pills. The NFL has put the drug on the baned list for two reasons. First, some claim the drug is useful as a masking agent for steroids and other performance enhancing substances.

The second reason that this and similar drugs are on the baned list is the safety of the player taking it. Don’t forget it was a Viking OT Korey Stringer in 2001 that died from heat stroke after reportedly taking water pills for weight loss. The Williams’ both claim that they were taking the drug for exactly the same reason and did not know that what they had taken contained ingredients that were illegal.

Another major issue for the NFL is that the Minnesota State court system has gotten involved in the issue. It was a state judge that issued the original TRO. The NFL has always claimed that it is not subject to state courts because it is a single national organization with local franchises. The claim filed by the NFL with the Minnesota court that they were not subject to state jurisdiction was rejected.

If this issue rings a bell, it is because the federal court law suit by Needle against the NFL involves the issue of the league’s ability to sign an exclusive apparel deal with a single vendor.

Several reports indicate that the NFL has tried to negotiate a lessor suspension like 2 games in exchange for the Williams’ dropping their law suit. Neither player has budged saying that they did nothing wrong and would not accept any suspension. That offer by the NFL is an indication that they realize that their entire drug program could hang in the balance with this law suit.

The programs of all other professional leagues will also be subject to challenge should the NFL fail to win the day. All professional league programs are built on competitive balance, player safety and union/league agreement. Those programs will be at risk should the NFL’s long standing program be judged illegal even in part. The challenge is not only that the league’s right to suspend players for taking certain drugs but that the league does not have the authority to determine which drugs should and should not be on the list.

Look for the league to lose the case and appeal it to the federal court of appeals. Then the challenge will be whether or not the federal court will hear the case. If they refuse leaving a state court finding against the league without taking the case, the NFL can expect to spend a lot of time in state courts all over the league on various issues.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits He has also published several novels on and edits .

Technorati Tags: NFL,Drugs,Williams,TRO,state court,Needle,NBA,NHL,MLB,drug policy,suspension

Owens going to Buffalo says most about the Bills

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By Bill Smith

My Dad is the smartest guy I know. He has always believed that there is a fine line between being laid back and laid out. And you had better know which side of that line you are on. WR Terrell Owens signing with Buffalo says something about his options and even more about the state of the the Bills franchise. It tells us which side of the line the Bills believe they are on.

Owens had very few options. That is clear because he got a one year contract in a place that is not conducive to great receiving numbers. Rumors about where TO might end up were all over the Internet and the primary topic on sports talk radio since he was released by the Cowboys. The problem was that TO had burned way too many bridges behind him. At least he made sure that he was off the bridge before setting it alight.

Miami needs another WR but Bill Parcells was not about to bring TO in. Minnesota, Chicago, and Jacksonville need WR help but the first two teams refused to risk their young QB’s and Jack Del Rio wouldn’t take a chance on what might be his last season as head coach on a possible trouble maker like Owens.

Buffalo has very little risk and would do almost anything to become relevant in the NFL again. Management needed something to bring fans into the stadium. TO might not be the best WR in the league or even in the top 10-15, but even his detractors have to admit he is fun to watch.

The key for the Bills is the one year contract. If he screws up again, he is history. If he causes young QB Trent Edwards to regress, the Bills can cut him and will have lost very little other than money that under the salary cap they had to spend to get to the minimum.

If on the other hand, TO uses his talent and work ethic and puts his ego away, he can be a draw and the “other” receiver opposite Lee Evans that the Bills have needed for years. Let’s wait and see what happens. At any rate, with TO on the roster, the Bills have a better than even chance of a Monday night date on ESPN.

There is a good sign however. When Edwards heard Owens was available, he sent the following text message to Bills general manager Russ Brandon. “What about T.O.?”

Edwards said “I was excited. I was very surprised that it happened. I respect football players that have such a passion and desire to win football games.”

My analysis: The NFL is not about OK guys, or even good guys. It is all about talent. If a coach has it, he looks brilliant. If not, he will be the next casualty of the recession—unemployed. There is no question that TO has talent. The problem is that it comes with SO much baggage.

If Edwards can keep total control of the huddle and not let TO talk him into forcing the ball to Owens, the addition will be successful. That is the ONLY way TO and the Bills can be successful together. If not, there may be trouble in Western New York. Trent, be careful what you ask for because you might just get it.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits He has also published several novels on and edits .

My email is [email protected]

Technorati Tags: TO,Owens,Bills,NFL,Parcells,Cowboys,Dallas,Minnesota,Chicago,Jacksonville,Evans,Edwards,Del Rio,Jaguars,Bears,Vikings

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