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Time for NFL to implement blood testing for HGH; more mail


Earlier this week, the NFL and NFLPA reiterated their interest in testing players for HGH. They did so in the wake of a recent positive HGH test by a British rugby player, the first known positive HGH blood test result. My reaction is that it's about time, and I know a lot of active players share my sentiment.

If you are a "clean" player, how can you not be in favor of any measure aimed at leveling the playing field? Sure, enough research and due diligence would have to be done to ensure the test is reliable, but outside of that, what objection would anyone have to making sure everyone is competing by the same rules? The NFL already uses preseason blood tests to monitor cholesterol and triglycerides, so I would be very skeptical of anyone who opposed blood testing for HGH.

I realize some believe that, while HGH helps one recover from injury, it doesn't increase strength. But I also know that some athletes have combined anabolic steroids and HGH to gain a competitive advantage. By doing so they put their health at risk, but who's to say they're not also harming the guys they go against on the field? In an age in which the rules lean toward player safety, what's wrong with a measure that tries to ensure that the collisions on the field are all man-made and not pharmaceutically enhanced? I took some pretty rough shots during my career from guys like Marcus Stroud and Rodney Harrison,who later were suspended under the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs. Makes you wonder.

I may be naive, but I would guess that less than 10 percent of the guys in the NFL take HGH or some other PED. Who knows, maybe some of the fans are right and the number is closer to 50 percent. Maybe I could have been a Pro Bowl player if I had taken HGH; maybe by not doing so, I put myself at a distinct disadvantage.

That's one reason I would love to get a list some day, even if it is 10-15 years from now, of who took PEDs during my career and who didn't. I would just like to know exactly where I really stood and if I got beat out fairly.

But I will never get that list. That's why we have to have this test for HGH and push for other tests to detect performance enhancers that already exist or that may be concocted in the future.

And now, some good topics from this week's mail:

Ross, I'm guessing you were more of an English major and less of a physics guy in college. Recently you answered a question about which Olympic sports NFL players would be good at by saying, "Something where the player's considerable weight would be an advantage. Maybe bobsledding or luge, to fly down the track faster?"

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Of course, if you remember your physics, ever since Isaac Newton was young we have been pretty sure the rate at which the earth's gravity accelerates something is independent of the weight of the object. If you throw Mike Williams and Darren Sproles off the same building at the same time, they will hit the ground at the same moment (ignoring wind resistance). The same is true of the bobsled. Gravity is going to pull Mike Williams down the bobsled at the same speed as Darren Sproles.

In fact, to the extent that the bobsled has any friction (and it does have some ... despite how slippery the ice is), Mike will have more friction than Darren, and therefore go a little slower than Darren. However, Mike might have one advantage over Darren. The bobsled starts with someone PUSHING it hard. Mike can surely push a lot harder than Darren can, so the sled might start out going faster, and this benefit might overcome the additional friction that Mike's big body generates.-- David Cutler, Atlanta

I'm going to defer to your knowledge, David, because, as you guessed, I was not a physics guy, but rather a Politics major who spent a lot more time writing papers than in the lab. And as luck would have it, I never tried out for the Olympics.

Ross, I just read your column about the combine, and even though I like what you bring as a former player to your columns each week, I have to disagree somewhat with your take on the combine. You say teams are placing less of a focus on the 40 time and athletic stuff during the combine, but just last year we saw Oakland drafting two guys in the first and second round based only on the 40 times they ran at the combine. These players weren't ranked on any boards as first- or second-round talents and yet, based on their 40 times, they moved up on at least one board. Every year we see players move up or down the draft boards based on their results in the combine and/or pro day. I agree with you that teams should focus more in the interviews and on game tape, but every year there are still teams chasing that fool's gold.-- Uri Herszenborn, Guadalajara, Mexico

I guess I should have prefaced by saying that each year more and more of the organizations that really know what they are doing place an increasingly smaller emphasis on the physical numbers generated at the combine. Every team takes the testing into account, but most give it far less weight now. The most notable exception, of course, is Oakland. But clearly the Raiders' draft choices haven't been panning out, and they are not a model franchise anymore, so perhaps that just reinforces my point.

How do people even consider Super Bowl wins when determining how good a quarterback is? I guess Bradshaw is far superior to Marino, huh? There are four phases of a football game: offense, defense, special teams and coaching. In the past Super Bowl, Manning's team was outcoached and the Saints defense played better.-- Dan, Philly

I totally agree, Dan. Though I think Super Bowl success is absolutely an important factor when evaluating a player, I do not subscribe to the theory that player X is necessarily better than player Y simply because he won more championships, just like I don't think player Y is better than player X simply because he threw for more yards and touchdowns. Ultimately, there are a number of factors that need to be taken into account and different people weigh different categories differently. That's the fun of it.

1. thezoeman @SI_RossTucker ... Do you think Chris Johnson should hold out? & if he does will Tennessee pay him?

He should strongly consider it. I doubt he will ever have a year like he had in 2009, and given the fungibility of that position and the beating that those guys take, you never really know if he could make it to a lucrative second contract. The Titans would probably balk at giving him a new deal, but I know they also aren't excited about the prospect of playing a game or two without him to start the 2010 season.