Since I wrote The Juice in 2005, things have changed some in the world of doping, but the presence of masking agents is a troubling sign for the NFL. That several players -- perhaps as many as 20 according to some reports -- are using a prescription diuretic points to widespread violations.
The typical refrain of "tainted supplement" doesn't carry much weight here. While there are reports of this specific diuretic being used in a diet supplement, the drug was put there on purpose. In addition, that supplement is not on the NFL's "blessed" list of supplements that are monitored and approved. I asked Anthony Roberts, the author of Beyond Steroids, about what these findings tell us. "It's use as a masking agent for various banned substances is well established," He told me. "It is a very strong diuretic and therefore, a good masking agent for steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs."
The diuretic used is also a "loop diuretic," one that stays in the system for a longer time and isn't simply excreted, meaning it needs supervision to be used properly. This is a serious problem and with big names coming to light, the NFL's drug policy is going to come under fire if not handled properly. Four-game suspensions seem likely for the players caught. Just don't let someone tell you "it's just a water pill." It's a masking agent, meaning something's going on that needs masked. Let's get to the injuries:
Darren McFadden RB OAK: McFadden is a surprise inactive. The turf toe is lingering and Tom Cable felt that McFadden would do better with rest. Also factoring in is the return to health of Justin Fargas, who will get the feature load for the Raiders.
Joseph Addai RB IND: With the Monday night game, Addai gets an extra day to meet Tony Dungy's policy of "no practice, no play." Addai is unlikely, at best, to see any action and has more healing time before he can get back to his feature role.
Willie Parker RB PIT: The setback with his MCL appears to have been significant enough to re-start the clock on Parker. He's out this week, with next week in question, as well.
Warrick Dunn RB TB: A couple weeks after a resurgence, Dunn is back on the bench. He's technically a gametime decision for playing, but even if he does, he's going to be nothing more than a change-of-pace back.
Carson Palmer QB CIN: Palmer's search for a doctor to tell him he should have Tommy John surgery appears close to an end. His season is likely done.
LaMont Jordan RB NE:Chris Rose is the announcer that will get to try and keep Benjarvus Green-Ellis' name straight. Jordan's calf injury kept him out of practice this week and will give Ellis and Kevin Faulk the RB slots this week. Expect Faulk in on passing downs.
Sammy Morris RB NE: See above, just sub in "knee" for "calf."
Deion Branch WR SEA: Listed as questionable on the OIR, I can clear up that question for you: Branch won't play as his heel is still hobbling him.
Steven Jackson RB STL: It looks as if Jackson is headed to the inactive list. The Rams are playing it conservative with his quad strain. While this hurts for this week, it's the smart play towards having a healthy Jackson for the second half.
Antonio Pittman RB STL: With Steven Jackson hurting, Pittman has to be frustrated that he isn't healed completely after his fractured fibula. He'll try to play despite it, though it's more likely that Travis Minor will get the carries if Jackson can't take them.
Kellen Winslow TE CLE: He's not suspended, but he also isn't playing this week. Still healing up from his infection, Winslow doesn't have the stamina or the comfort to be ready to play this week, though things look positive for next week.
Ike Hilliard WR TB : He's active but is not a great fantasy option coming off last week's concussion.
Joey Galloway WR TB: He'll make his season debut today but is still not at full strength. Expect him to play lightly.
Jason Taylor DE WAS : Here's a new one -- Taylor will play in selected sets on Sunday, but then will undergo surgery to release pressure in his damaged calf on Monday. It will be the second procedure Taylor's needed on the calf.
Anquan Boldin WR ARI: Sources confirm that Boldin will play, just a few weeks after one of the most violent hits in recent memory. He still has a handful of steel plates and wires holding his head together, but he's been cleared to play. He's expected to be limited and his routes are designed to keep him near the sidelines and away from big-hitting safeties.
LaDainian Tomlinson RB SD: Tomlinson says he's over the toe injury that's held him back, but it also forced him out of practice on Wednesday. There's some whispers that with the bye week coming up, the Chargers will lighten LT's load, hoping the extra rest will help him actually get over the injury.
Brian Westbrook RB PHI: The question isn't whether he'll play, but if the knee and ribs are enough to keep him from getting the feature load. He might not get quite as many carries as normal, but it doesn't look like it will be much less.
Jerricho Cotchery WR NYJ: Cotchery's shoulder is sore, but he'll play. With Coles hurting, this could be a great matchup week for Chansi Stuckey.
Laveranues Coles WR NYJ: Coles is a bit more banged up this week, but listed as just "probable." That's a bit odd, even for Eric Mangini's reporting.
Justin Gage WR TEN: Gage was back at practice this week and in a bit of a surprise, had left the knee brace behind by Friday. He's not full-go, but he'll play.
Chris Chambers WR SD: He'll play today, but is limited by the ankle sprain. He's not going to be able to do much more than run fast, which could be enough. The weather is also going to be a big factor for Chambers, Tomlinson, and Shockey.
Kevin Curtis WR PHI: Curtis is back after hernia surgery and is said to be as close to full-go as possible. His role is a bit unclear, but he's still a solid option.
Jeremy Shockey TE NO: Shockey did the splits early in last week's game. That's unwise so soon after hernia surgery, but it wasn't intentional. Some scar came loose, but the damage was minimal.