NFL lead attorney Jeff Pash expressed cautious optimism on Friday that the league will begin HGH testing in time for the 2012 season.
The league and NFL Players Association have an agreement to conduct a population study that could clear the way to start testing. Pash said the study will be conducted by an independent laboratory.
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"We have agreed, whether we think it's necessary or not, to do a population study, and we've identified some people who can do that study who are clearly independent of the NFL and NFLPA and have no ax to grind one way or another," Pash said at an Associated Press Sports Editors meeting at the league's New York-based headquarters. "If we can put the mechanism for that study in place, we can get to the point where we can have HGH testing."
The two sides agreed to HGH testing last year as part of the collective-bargaining agreement, but the union resisted implementation of the program until the study, which will be designed to see if pro football players have a higher threshold of naturally occurring HGH than other people.
Pash said the league is close to issuing penalties for Saints players involved in the team's bounty program from 2009-11.
"We're moving toward making decisions on player discipline," he said. "I do think there will be player discipline that is appropriate, based on the facts."
Pash expressed disappointment that union officials seemed more concerned with protecting Saints players subject to fines and/or suspensions than with opposing players who were targeted by New Orleans. Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who has been suspended indefinitely, ran the bounty program, which rewarded players for making big plays and injuring opponents.
"There is shared accountability," Pash said. "Players were clearly participants and clearly have a share of the responsibility and accountability as well."
Could Vikings be on the move? Pash said if talks break down over the issue of a new stadium for the Vikings, the team could meet the league's criteria for relocation. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was in Minnesota on Friday to meet with politicians in an effort to reach agreement on a new stadium proposal that is now in question.
"What we're asking for in Minnesota is to have a decision," Pash said. "We've been clear that our commitment, our goal is to have the Vikings in Minnesota. We're not looking to have a failure of the stadium effort there."
But if talks break down, Pash said all bets are off.