NEW YORK — The NFL is adding game-day testing for performance-enhancing substances — but not recreational drugs — this season under the new collective bargaining agreement.
The league’s senior vice president of law and labor policy, Adolpho Birch, said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters that tests weren’t conducted in the past on days there were games “because of logistical issues involved, much more so than any philosophical issues.”
Birch, who oversees the NFL’s drug program, added that the league had developed a way to test that “is not overly disruptive to the clubs and that respects the game-day process.”
Birch would not say where talks between the NFL and the players’ union stand — or even if they’ve started — about details that need to be worked out before the league can introduce random, year-round blood testing for human growth hormone.
The NFL and union agreed last week that HGH testing can become part of the sport’s drug program under the new, 10-year collective bargaining agreement that was ratified by players Thursday. But first issues such as the appeals process and how tests are taken have to be negotiated.
“The key to this testing is the randomness of it, and that every player is subject to and eligible for testing on a year-round basis, with no notice,” Birch said.
The only limitation on the number of tests is that a player may be tested a maximum of six times each offseason, from February until the start of training camp.
“I would certainly expect players will be tested in an amount that will be meaningful. But more important, the idea is not so much the number of tests performed, but it is the constant threat of testing that provides the key to deterrence under this particular program,” Birch said.
RENTON, Wash. — Trust.
It was missing much of Golden Tate’s rookie year, which was the reason that a player the Seahawks expected so much from had a hard time getting on the field.
“Looking back at last year, I made a lot of big plays in camp early, but I wasn’t doing it the way coach wanted me to do it,” Tate said. “If you can’t have the trust of the quarterback, the coaches, then they’re not going to put you on the field.”
Trust is the one thing Tate is determined to earn this year, running his routes sharply and precisely so that when it’s time to throw him the ball, the quarterback won’t think twice.
“Doing things the way they want it and the way they coach,” Tate said. “If I do that, I can make some big plays.”
This year is going to be different. That story line is the staple that holds together so many of the stories that come out of an NFL training camp. August constitutes a blank slate in this league, a time when optimism can blossom into the belief that this year will be the breakthrough. There are any number of reasons behind this conviction. Maybe a player is now healthy. Perhaps he has a new position coach.
For Tate, it’s a new offense under coordinator Darrell Bevell and a fresh start for Tate.
“He’s caught more balls than anyone on the practice field since camp started,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s highly competitive, and we’re going to find a way to really have him help us. I think it’s a different setting for him entirely.”
Tate may have been the most puzzling player on Seattle’s team last season. The Seahawks had him evaluated as a first-round talent, and they chose him in the second round out of Notre Dame. He was among the most impressive players during the team’s offseason workouts yet was a non-factor for much of his rookie season. He was inactive for the first game, though he was healthy.
“The small mistakes that he made kind of distracted us from going with the athlete that he is,” Carroll said. “I think he’s a fantastic player.”
But before this story takes the typical turn to explain how this season will be different, it’s important to point out Tate’s rookie season wasn’t all that far below average. At least not for a wide receiver drafted in the second round.
And there are examples of receivers who’ve made quantum leaps in their second year in the league. Before Chad Johnson became Ochocinco, he was a receiver who caught 28 passes as a rookie in 2001 and vaulted up to 69 receptions his second season in Cincinnati.
Steve Smith — the one who plays for the Giants and not the Panthers — was a second-round pick in 2007 who played only five games as a rookie and caught eight passes. He caught 57 balls his second year, and 107 in his third.
Those are the exceptions, though. On average, a receiver chosen in the second round the past decade caught 2.4 more passes his second year compared to his first. His receiving yards went up by an average of 49.
That’s not exactly the path to stardom. Will Tate be an exception to those trends, someone who becomes that exceptional receiver everyone imagined him to be during those offseason workouts before his rookie season?
He showed his explosiveness in Week 2 last year at Denver when he returned a punt 63 yards and caught a pass for 52. That was supposed to be his coming-out party, but it turned out to be the high point. He had only one reception of more than 20 yards the rest of the year.
Will this season be different? It all comes down to the word again — trust.
“This year, I’m strictly focusing on, ‘Do your job and do it right and do it full speed,’ ” Tate said. “I feel like if I do that, my ability will come out.”