NFL AM: League Image Takes A Minor Hit


League Investigating Al Jazeera Doc, Sort Of

We all know that the NFL is a television ratings machine that steamrolls over all other types of programming.  That’s part of the reason that commissioner Roger Goodell earned $34 million last year and that he’s underpaid (compared to most top television execs).

The league has endured horrific scandals with some of its biggest stars like Adrian Peterson (child abuse) and Ray Rice (the new face of domestic violence).  Still, people keep going to games and more importantly watching the games on television.

In the grand scheme of things, Monday’s reboot of the Al Jazeera documentary which featured Peyton Manning and his alleged use of HGH, is small potatoes.

With that said, the league claims that it is going to interview Manning, along with Pittsburgh’s James Harrison, Green Bay’s Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, and former Packers linebacker Mike Neal.

“While the investigation has proceeded, we have yet to interview the players,” NFL senior VP of labor Adolpho Birch wrote. “We have attempted since early April to work through the NFLPA to schedule them, but despite multiple requests the NFLPA has failed to respond, except to seek reconsideration of the basis for the investigation. This continuing delay and avoidance has obstructed our ability to conduct and conclude the investigation.”

In a statement released by the NFLPA on Monday, the organization stressed that the NFL has not provided them any additional evidence.

“The NFL has chosen to initiate an investigation of these players based upon now-recanted statements that appeared in an Al-Jazeera report,” the statement read. “The NFLPA requested from the NFL any additional evidence supporting an investigation of the players; the NFL did not provide any such evidence, nor did they inform the NFLPA or the players that any such evidence exists. Instead, the NFL has decided to publicly pressure the players into submission. We will continue to advise our players about their rights and hold the NFL accountable.”

McCarthy said the interview process is one part of the NFL’s investigation into the conclusions reached in the Al-Jazeera America report.

“The NFLPA and NFL are obligated and have a shared responsibility to look into allegations that could impact the integrity of competition on the field and the health of our players,” McCarthy said. “We have been obtaining and reviewing numerous records, conducting multiple interviews and working with other entities. We have made no conclusions but the report merits a review, including interviews with the players named.”

Obviously interviewing the retired Manning is more for public relations purposes and less for information collection.  What do they really think Manning is going to say?  Is he going to admit to taking performance enhancing drugs coming off injury while his team won a Super Bowl?

Of course not.

PED’s have often been the NFL’s version of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  A current player in the AFC told Football Insiders that he believes up to 70 percent of players are on some sort of HGH or illegal performance enhancer.

When asked if he took them, he simply said “no.”

The league can’t get HGH testing straight, not because they can’t figure it out, because neither the owners or the NFLPA really wants testing deep down.  The NFL doesn’t need to potentially lose some of it’s biggest stars and gain the reputation of Major League Baseball, who has done as good of a job as any league in cleaning up its sport.  The NFLPA doesn’t want its members suspended and losing paychecks.

Testing is poor business all around, especially if none of the fans really care if their “warriors” are on juice.

So here’s a prediction that you can take to the bank:  Nothing will come from these interviews from the Al Jazeera documentary.  Why would any player give any information to the NFL about it when the league has no subpoena powers and even less willingness to do anything about it?

Jaguars’ Skuta Arrested

The months of June and July are usually the scariest time for NFL team execs.  The players are mostly off of work, potentially bored and have millions of dollars burning proverbial holes in their pockets.

So what are wealthy 20-somethings going to do in this situation?  The same thing that non-wealthy 20-somethings do, go out.

CBS 47 in Jacksonville is reporting that Jaguars linebacker Dan Skuta was arrested over the weekend in Orlando for allegedly striking a woman.

The team released a statement concerning the event.

“The Jaguars are aware of the situation involving linebacker Dan Skuta and are currently gathering more information. The team has been in constant communication with Dan through this process in its entirety. No further comment can be made at this time.”

According to the police report, a friend of the victim approached an officer and said her friend had been hit by a man, and identified the “tall male subject.” The officer detained the man, ( Skuta).

The victim alleges that she and her friend were on the sidewalk when approached by Skuta, and he began chatting and flirting with the victim. When the Jaguars linebacker asked for her phone number, she said no, and, the police report says, a verbal altercation ensued.

Skuta then allegedly pushed the woman in the face with an open hand, causing her to hit the back of her head on a glass window. The woman told the officer she did not give him permission to touch her and wanted to press charges. She refused medical attention.

The police officer said he observed Skuta’s eyes to be “blood shot/glassy” and smelled alcohol on his breath. He was arrested and posted $500 bond.

The veteran linebacker’s attorney, Mark NeJame released a statement of his own.

“Dan Skuta was arrested for something that simply did not happen and we ask that there be no rush to judgment as Dan is innocent. Erroneous conclusions should not be jumped to. 

Eyewitnesses who we have already received statements from in our initial investigation will attest that Dan was alongside his girlfriend when this fabricated event supposedly took place and only verbally instructed two women who were harassing his friends to leave them alone. 

The witnesses confirm that upon only verbally instructing the nuisances to leave them alone, Dan was then struck in the face by one of the women, as is evidenced by his mugshot which clearly shows where he was struck.  They completely contradict the version of the complainant leading to Dan’s arrest. They further confirm that he and his girlfriend walked away from the incident, as to avoid further trouble from his attacker . 

Dan never placed his hands on anyone.  As such, according to the witnesses he was arrested outside the venue on a story entirely made up by the offending woman. He has not been charged and we are confident this will be resolved favorably to Dan and the truth will come out as to his innocence and non-involvement.

Dan has an outstanding reputation and is hurt by the unfair association to any such allegation and is confident that the full truth will soon be determined.” 

Two differing stories, at least one is a complete fabrication of what happened.  It would probably be too soon to speculate, but if we’re going to speculate it seems pretty odd that anyone would strike a woman after she refused to give a phone number.  The mark on Skuta’s face corroborates the statement that his attorney made.

Those calling for the linebacker’s immediate dismissal need to take a step back and wait for more of the story to play out.  This doesn’t appear to be a Ray Rice or much worse, a Greg Hardy type of situation.

If Skuta is cut from the Jaguars, it will be for salary reasons based on performance, especially with the team’s selection of Myles Jack.

About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.