Kyler Murray signed a Cardinals helmet after being drafted in April, which has since been auctioned off for $3,450 – the most for a draft helmet in the NFL’s auction.
Alyssa Williams, USA Today Sports
Patrick Peterson insists that he’s “definitely sorry” for the stain suddenly attached to his name.
Busted. Performance-enhancing drugs … with a masking agent that didn’t quite cover it up.
The Arizona Cardinals star — arguably the best NFL cornerback of his era, but now facing a six-game suspension for violating the league’s steroids policy — might someday also feel some additional shame if this week’s revelation costs or delays his chance of getting the right kind of bust in Canton.
It’s a debate waiting to happen: What’s the penalty for trying to game the system for an unfair advantage?
I mean, Terrell Owens never had any sort of suspension for PEDs or street drugs and it still took three years for the once-dominant-but-controversial receiver to get voted into the Hall.
Then again, Peterson might be lucky that we’re talking Canton … and not Cooperstown.
Assuming this suspension is a one-shot deal for Peterson and he picks up his pattern of shutting down lethal receivers, which has earned him eight Pro Bowl selections and three All-Pro credits, history suggests that it probably won’t be the final factor in weighing his Hall worthiness.
But he won’t – and shouldn’t – get a free pass.
Sure, there are several busts with blemishes on display. Lawrence Taylor and Michael Irvin had well-documented drug issues. Paul Hornung served a one-year suspension for gambling. Fred Biletnikoff used stickum – which in the 1970s was a legal way to gain an advantage. And it’s fair to wonder how many linemen from back in the day powered themselves up with one substance or another.
Nobody’s perfect. Yet in this age of intensified scrutiny (and you can ask Owens about that), issues with PEDs could loom as a serious demerit. A suspension could be the swing factor when weighing candidates with otherwise similar credentials.
Tell me about it. I’ve been a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee for more than 20 years, in the room for those marathon meetings before the Super Bowl when we’re able to hash out pros and cons of finalists – a neat, unique feature for football’s process, once you sift through the home-team biases and politicking – and it can get so tight when you’re splitting hairs between, say, four safeties, three defensive linemen and two guards on the ballot.
The Hall’s bylaws instruct us to only weigh what happens on the field. But that policy still lends itself for interpretation, when considering the effect of a player not being available to be on the field or, say, what impact a player had on his team due to chemistry issues. This policy can be a moving target.
After all, the votes don’t come from computers and extend beyond just stats. Like it or not, human beings make the call.
A squeaky-clean candidate vs. a player with a PED suspension?
Hey, there are only so many slots.
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Consider the effect the steroids era has had on baseball’s Hall of Fame. There’s a who’s who list of would-be Hall of Famers, if not for their link to performance-enhancing drugs: Barry Bonds. Roger Clemens. Mark McGwire. Sammy Sosa. Rafael Palmeiro. Manny Ramirez. With Alex Rodriguez on deck.
Football hasn’t had such a death penalty to this point, and I’d suspect one of the reasons is the brutality and physical sacrifice of the sport.
When Rodney Harrison – named recently to the New England Patriots’ Hall of Fame, but never a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist — was suspended in 2007 for violating the NFL’s PED policy, his explanation was at least plausible. He maintained that he never took steroids but admitted to using human growth hormone as a means to accelerate the healing process in recovering from several injuries.
When you think about how so many football players wind up with busted-up bodies, sacrificed for their chosen professions and seven-figure salaries, their desires to heal quickly or otherwise mitigate the pain from what is often described as “weekly car crashes” can resonate as an alternative.
In many cases, though, football players blame their suspensions on tainted supplements.
That was Antonio Gates’ explanation a few years ago when the Chargers tight end was slapped with a four-game ban for violating the substance-abuse policy. Buy it? More recently, there was the case of Julian Edelman.
He’s the reigning Super Bowl MVP. Yet some will contend that he never should have been on the field for Tom Brady to target, if the NFL had a stricter policy for PEDs. Edelman started last season with a four-game suspension for PEDs.
He owned up to it, but with scant details … and a lot of gray area.
“I don’t know what happened,” Edelman said last fall.
Bottom line, tainted supplements or not, players are responsible for what goes in their bodies.
It’s a bit premature to suggest that Edelman will ever be a Hall of Fame candidate, yet there’s no doubt that Gates will someday be a likely Hall of Famer. Same for Julius Peppers, the just-retired Carolina Panthers defensive end who was suspended four games during his rookie NFL season for what he explained as an honest mistake: he took a banned dietary substance.
At the time, Peppers pledged that it would never happen again. His word was good. He was never suspended again. He wound up playing 17 seasons and his Hall of Fame credentials are built on 159 ½ sacks, which ranks fourth on the NFL’s all-time list. The only other question about PEDs surfaced in 2015, carrying over to 2016, when Peppers was among several players threatened with a suspension after their names surfaced in an Al Jazeera report that alleged they received steroids. In the wake of strong denials from all accused, the matter was ultimately resolved without any violations.
The one-time cases hardly doom the chances for Gates and Peppers, but that doesn’t mean they won’t add a layer to the ultimate Hall of Fame discussions.
As for Peterson, there’s a different twist. His reported use of a masking agent wipes out any “tainted supplement” defense. That, too, will likely be part of the debate for his Hall of Fame case.
A suspension – especially if compared to candidates who never failed a drug test — might not be the only price he pays.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell