A strengthening of NFL discipline for an alcohol-related driving offense is in the offing but only after the league and NFL Players Association finalize a testing policy for human growth hormone, FOX Sports has learned.
A source told FOX Sports that the delay stems largely from the trickle-down effect the new HGH policy will have on other league programs, guidelines and the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Once the HGH testing plan is finalized — the NFL and NFLPA continued to work toward an agreement Monday — a new alcohol policy is expected to follow.
The NFL has pushed for a mandatory suspension for any player who is convicted of an alcohol-related driving offense. An NFLPA source told FOX Sports that “players have been open to discussions and already discussed increasing discipline on DUIs.”
The source, though, said that “other proactive measures beyond discipline need to be taken.” That includes such examples as further demographic research on those arrested to determine whether there is a trend that can be addressed, as well as a better communication system with players reminding them to make appropriate transportation arrangements if they are planning to drink.
Adolpho Birch, who heads the NFL’s drug-testing programs as its senior vice president of law and labor policy, told FOX Sports the league would be “all ears” to any NFLPA suggestions.
“We would entertain any program collaboration, initiative or partnership that looks like it was feasibly calculated to reduce the number of incidents involving players, club employees and league employee who drive while impaired. That’s a given,” Birch said in a telephone interview.
According to a U-T San Diego website database chronicling NFL arrests, 10 players were booked on alcohol-related driving charges in 2013 (the charge for one player already was dropped). There were 17 players arrested for the same offenses in 2012. That includes now-retired Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Josh Brent, who is facing an intoxication manslaughter charge as the driver in a car crash last December that killed one of his teammates.
Such incidents have occurred despite extensive outreach by teams, the NFL and NFLPA to warn players of the perils of drunken driving. The NFLPA and many teams offer transportation services for players who want to avoid driving while impaired.
“From our end, we look at three or four different areas where we provide education, awareness and resources. We also look at deterrents,” Birch said. “We need all to be as effective as they can to reduce the incidents as much as possible.
“We’ve made a lot of strides in some areas but not so far on the deterrent end. We’re trying to make sure the consequences for such behavior outweigh the risk that the player in particular is willing to take. It’s something we’ve talked to the Players Association for a year about. We firmly believe the need to increase that deterrent. That’s what we’re trying to do.”