After three years of battles, the NFL and the NFL Players Association have intensified negotiations to implement HGH testing for the first time in league history in addition to revamping its drug-testing policy, per multiple sources familiar with talks about a revised policy.
Although the sides are trying to come to an agreement before Sunday's slate of regular-season opening games, sources say there remains a "fragile" state of talks as the proposed revised policy is being finalized. Sources on both sides caution on the basis of sensitive negotiations that have previously imploded.
"Players who have been to any collective bargaining negotiation understand that we never describe them as 'very close,'" NFLPA president Eric Winston said in a statement. "We look at every issue we can to improve the rights and benefits of players. This process takes time, it takes creativity and it is never easy.
"We want to get a new agreement in place, but we understand the responsibility we have to the players and to the game. It is critical that we get this right."
HGH testing -- performed under the cover of the NFL's policy on anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drugs -- is expected to begin within 10 to 14 days if the sides reach agreement, per sources. It will be conducted the day before games and the day after games but not on the day of games, sources said.
The obstacles the sides are trying to overcome on sweeping changes do not hinge alone on HGH testing but rather also on other matters related to DUIs, marijuana thresholds, due process and whether initial HGH testing will include a population study this season to determine appropriate thresholds for football players.
One sensitive issue involves any player arrested for driving under the influence. The league wants the ability to discipline players immediately upon a DUI arrest as opposed to allowing due process to complete its course, sources say. It's one example of why talks remain fragile, sources say.
The union and its players will not sign off on an overhauled drug policy without a radically altered appeals process for players that will be overseen by neutral arbitration and not by commissioner Roger Goodell, sources say.
The potential agreement would consummate more than three years of talks, from the time that the NFL and NFLPA thought they had an agreement in principle for HGH testing in August 2011, after the sides agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement.
Since then, the sides have bickered over the issue and failed to push it through. In the past couple of weeks, however, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith was especially aggressive in trying to get HGH testing for this season, and his efforts have spurred a pending agreement.
Now, in the span of less than a week, the NFL has enacted a new domestic violence policy and, with the help of the NFLPA, hopes to enact a revised drug policy that includes HGH testing, which will not be cheap to owners, who pay everything related to testing. Each HGH test will cost $2,500.
A new drug policy would include radical changes in the following areas:
• Marijuana thresholds for a positive test would be increased, including players being afforded more strikes for positive tests before suspensions are imposed.