- John Clayton, NFL senior writer
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I admit I'm not a chemist.
I couldn't tell the difference between a masked man or a masking agent when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs. When the NFL and the NFL Players Association agree on a performance-enhancing drug provoking a four-game suspension, I defer to their expertise.
But there was something about the deer antler story involving Ray Lewis that intrigued me. As you know, SI.com suggested Lewis might have had access to deer antler spray to help speed his recovery from a torn triceps injury.
What struck me, though, was the idea that some banned substances might actually be re-evaluated if indeed they do help with recovery. Commissioner Roger Goodell stresses safety, and he's right in doing so. Safety is a major topic in the NFL, but shouldn't recovery be a priority too?
If deer antler spray can make a player recover quicker, should the NFL allow trainers to apply it? As physical as the game of football is, protecting the player is one thing, but getting him back on the field should also be a priority.
Ravens safety Ed Reed was critical of the state of NFL medicine last week, and he made some good points. He thinks training staffs can do more.
"I work hand-in-hand with my doctor, so I know the things that he's helping me with, that help me to prevent the aging sort of things that you get in your body,'' Reed said. "Most of my teammates -- and I tell them all the time -- you think just eating healthy is going to be the thing. You eat vegetables and you're eating grilled chicken and grilled fish, and that's enough. It's not. It's not enough. For this sport, it's not. I don't think they do enough medical-wise in the NFL to help us, to get past not only the concussions, but the wear and tear that we go through. It's a long grind.''
Reed isn't pushing for PEDs to be part of the NFL, but he thinks the recovery process needs to improve. It's not just the injuries. It's the wear and tear on the body.
"I'm not doing anything different in the training room now that I did in high school,'' Reed said. "There's still the same 'stim' machines, there's still ice and hot tub, there's no difference. There's really no difference, honestly. You might have a couple other little machines, but it hasn't been too much of a difference. I know what my doctor does for me, that a lot of other guys don't do that can help, but it's on you as a player to spend that money on yourself, to invest in yourself.''
Reed thinks the league should take some of the fine money and invest it in the training room.
"I've stressed rehab and recovery because that's the biggest part of it,'' Reed said. "You have to rehab after this season. You have to go right into that, your recovery process. Most of those guys, I don't know if they do that or not. I'm not working out with everybody, but you have to have some type of recovery. That's more of what's in you. It's inside your body.
"We all look good on the outside, but if you go to the doctor, what's the doctor going to treat you for? He's going to treat you for your symptoms. He's not going to treat you for what the core problem is. That's probably the biggest thing. We don't have the medical support in our training rooms. You really need to go outside of your training rooms, your training staffs to get medical treatment. Or ask your trainers how can you get better treatment.''
From the inbox
Q: With a new coaching regime in Cleveland, many speculate that Brandon Weeden may not be the starting quarterback. Would it be reasonable for the Browns to trade backup Colt McCoy and a late-round pick for someone such as Alex Smith? This would provide San Francisco a backup quarterback with starting experience and a much lower salary.
James in Bowling Green, Ohio
A: The McCoy part doesn't work. Niners coach Jim Harbaugh will find his own backup, so that part of the trade won't happen. The answer is yes to the Smith part. I don't agree the current ownership needs to go on the hunt for a new quarterback, but if it does, a Smith trade makes sense. New Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner did a good job with Smith the one year they worked together in San Francisco. If the Browns are really looking for a quarterback, offering San Francisco a midround choice wouldn't be unreasonable.
Q: With all the Darrelle Revis trade talk, why haven't the Dolphins been included in the conversation? I understand the Jets are unlikely to trade within the division, but the Dolphins have the cap space to sign him to the extension he wants. Having a lock-down corner to go along with our dominate front seven would do wonders.
Dalton in Gainesville, Fla.
A: You answered your own question. The Jets aren't going to put their best player on a division rival. What you say about Revis' impact is right. He would make the Dolphins' defense that much better. The Jets obviously know that. There is no way they make that trade.
Q: What is your take on Dolphins owner Stephen Ross' plan to upgrade Sun Life Stadium? Many in South Florida are against any taxpayer money funding the stadium as they are comparing it to the disaster of Jeffrey Loria and the Marlins' stadium, which is unfair. Ross has stated he plans on paying for most of the costs and this will greatly affect the chances of Miami hosting another Super Bowl. The current stadium is not a great venue in my opinion.
Tony in Charlotte, N.C.
A: A stadium upgrade is necessary. That being the case, there needs to be a partnership between the Dolphins and South Florida. It's going to be hard for Miami to stay in the Super Bowl rotation without an upgrade. No doubt the Loria-Marlins disaster will have the area on guard, and rightfully so. Ross isn't Loria. He has the resources. He has the desire to succeed. We can debate whether he is doing a good job as a football owner. As a businessman, though, he deserves the chance to get local funding support for a much-needed upgrade.
Q: I am trying to understand the logic of the Hall of Fame voting. I can understand Cris Carter getting in, but how can Jerome Bettis time and time get snubbed? Is it because there are too many Steelers? Do the voters have an anti-Steelers stance?
Marci in Issaquah, Wash.
A: There is no Steelers snub in the Hall of Fame and that is evident by the number of Steelers in there. If you aren't a first-ballot Hall of Famer, sometimes you wait and that's the case with Bettis. That doesn't diminish his career or his accomplishments. Understand we have to cut a list of 15 qualified Hall of Fame candidates to five each year. Bettis is not being snubbed.
Q: Is a team allowed to go over the salary cap and pay a luxury tax, or is it a hard ceiling? Also, if a player gets put on IR, does the team immediately go below the cap based on the amount of that player's contract?
Zubin in Stamford, Conn.
A: If a team goes over the cap, it has a day to get under it. There is no luxury tax. The ceiling isn't a hard ceiling in terms of cash. On the injured-reserve front, teams can negotiate what is known as a split in the contract that would lower the player's salary if he goes on injured reserve, but only players with minimal leverage or those with an injury history get those splits. For example, a starter with good negotiating leverage isn't going to accept a split contract that partially protects a team in case of injury.
Q: I am a fan of the Colts and have been looking at several 2013 mock drafts. A lot of people have the Colts taking a defensive end/tackle. Wouldn't it be smarter to take an offensive tackle or guard?
Sam in Indianapolis
A: Last year was a great draft for offense; the Colts got Andrew Luck, two tight ends and a good receiver in T.Y. Hilton. This needs to be a meat-and-potatoes draft for the Colts. They need help on the O-line and help on defense in all positions. They don't have to jump at taking an offensive lineman in the first round, but if the right one is there, they should take him. Because the Colts have a lot of needs on defense, they can take the best defensive player available in each round. With only five draft choices, though, the Colts have to be efficient.
Q: The American Football League was the last upstart league to successfully compete with the NFL, until it was absorbed by it. Suppose that the NFL continues to change its rules to cut down on violence, resulting in games as exciting as the Pro Bowl. Do you then see an upstart league that would promise old-time football as we used to know it?
Jack in Palo Alto, Calif.
A: I will never doubt such a league could surface, but I don't ever see one being successful. The financial stakes are too high. The problems with an upstart league are startup costs. The NFL has the stadiums. The NFL has the networks. The NFL has the fans. The NFL has the players. No upstart league now could generate the revenue to make it work. Before that league gets on the field, it would be choked by the costs.
The NFL might be able do more when it comes to helping players recover from injury. Plus, answers to reader questions.