I just knew that Al Jazeera documentary from the past winter would not go away. Charlie Sly, an intern at the Guyer Institute who claimed that Peyton Manning as well as Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers,  former Packer Mike Neal and Steelers’ James Harrison were using performance enhancing drugs.

While I’m not going to weigh in on their guilt or innocence. But like many, I take exception at what is quickly becoming a witch hunt, especially in light of the fact that Manning was cleared of any wrong doing after 7-month investigation by the NFL. Granted, what would the NFL have done had they found Manning guilty? He’d already retired by the time the investigation had run its course. It’s not like the could suspend a retired player. Maybe they could take away his birthday. Any discipline would ring hollow.

Enter a new witch hunt. Why not go for the low hanging fruit if you wan to heft your wait as the strong arm of the NFL and restart the investigation with players Commissioner Roger Goodell could actually exert some force over? Those are players you can fine and/or suspend. They are the players that can be intimidated.

Pay no mind that the focus of the expose was on Manning and he’s already been cleared. Pay no attention to the fact that Charlie Sly has recanted his statements and says that he made the whole thing up.

The NFL got a little scarier for its busy little worker bees yesterday. Because how hearsay without evidence is now proof enough to drag players into a conference room for interrogation regarding PEDs. Granted Peppers was popped with a positive drug test during his rookie year in Carolina and withdrew his appeal to sit his four game suspension back in 2002. But Matthews has never failed a drug test.

So we’re left with hearsay. There was no fire to go with the smoke when it came to the Manning investigation, so why is it crucial to beat the dead horse a second time?

Meanwhile Matthews, Peppers and Harrison have been ordered (not exactly a polite invitation) to meet with the NFL to reopen this ugly bandaid. And it wasn’t an offer to clear the air, review the facts and possibly move on. No, they have been ordered to present their selves to their inquisitors or else. In other words, show up or we will punish you.

Our criminal justice system isn’t even that harsh. Innocence presumed before guilt. Nope, not in the NFL. Goodell is already offering to suspend without any sort of due process.

We all may have mocked and snickered as Tom Brady was re-suspended for Deflategate. But that coupled with how the league is now handling this situation reveals a very ugly underbelly of the power the NFL has over it’s players. Sure, we can blame the NFLPA for conceding such power to Goodell and minimizing player (read: employee) rights. We can say they did this to themselves. Yet there is no question NFL is quickly capitalizing on this blind spot and is developing a reputation of heavy-handed discipline without

But at the end of the day Roger Goodell is displaying his need to be judge, jury and executioner. Should any boss have that much power over his employees?

Where do they draw the line, my best friend’s neighbor’s step-sister’s uncle saw Aaron Rodgers* smoke a little weed so that is evidence enough to give him the Comfy Chair, a bright light and is told to sing about a dimebag that may or may not have ever existed? t

Welcome to the slippery slope, my friends. Failure to cooperate in a complete and utter witch hunt is now punishable by suspension and loss of income. There’s a not so fine line between Protecting the Shield ™ and the integrity of what it means to represent the league and a complete abuse of power. By issuing demands to be interrogated under penalty of suspension is, in my opinion, an abuse of that power.

What’s going to stop Goodell from acting differently when someone has an axe to grind and cries wolf knowing that, at the very least, said player will be embarrassed and at the worst he’ll be suspended because he doesn’t want to entertain.

Who knows, sometimes there is fire where you smell smoke. Maybe Matthews and Peppers are guilty as sin. But then again, if there is no evidence linking Manning to PED use, why would there suddenly be more evidence condemning the Packers players?

Yes Manning and Peppers should probably answer questions. If they have nothing to hide, then they will only be playing a role in exonerating themselves. And quite frankly ducking at least seven requests to sit down and talk probably doesn’t help mattters.

But the way this went down is ugly. There’s no two ways about it. No one should be told by their employer, “Come to this meeting otherwise we’ll punish you.” The only way that can described effectively is quite simple: it’s intimidation.

As of right now, there is no evidence, no failed drug screens and no links to the clinic other than the words of a man who has since recanted his statement. In other words, there’s more evidence linking Mike McCarthy to the Kennedy Assassination (read: none) than there is truly linking these players to any guilt. There documented policies for suspending players for positive drug screens. That’s typically what starts the disciplinary process under the NFL Drug and PED Policies.

The commissioner can’t be creating new rules when it comes to written policy regarding drugs and PEDs. But when edicts come down from on high to submit or be punished, there’s no pretending that he isn’t rewriting the rules as he goes along. No employee regardless of career, whether it is a burger flipper at McDonalds, a firefighter, doctor, teacher or NFL player should have to be threatened with punishment because he or she doesn’t want to cooperate with a witch hunt rooted in hearsay.

Good luck putting that genie back in the bottle, NFL. I highly suggest the next CBA between the players and the league tightens players’ rights when it comes to protection from such strong arm nonsense.


* Name picked randomly. I am not accusing anyone of using PEDs or Schedule I controlled substances. Please don’t sue me. This is a hypothetical. These are not the droids you are searching for. 


Kelly Hodgson is a writer for PackersTalk.com and you can listen to her as a Co-Host of Out of the Pocket. You can also follow Kelly on Twitter at @ceallaigh_k