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TAMPA, Fla. -- NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith said Tuesday the union is looking to investigate how Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman's presence in Stage 1 of the league's substance-abuse program became public.
I appreciate the manner in which Josh has handled this personally because he is a good young man. But this issue is a bigger issue about what's right with respect to the relationship between players and management. When those issues come to bear, this is a union that will stand up for its players.” -- DeMaurice Smith, on the NFLPA's concern that Josh Freeman's presence in the NFL's substance-abuse program became public.
ESPN's Chris Mortensen first reported the news Monday night. Freeman later released a statement in which he said he has a prescription for Adderall to treat ADHD but that he inadvertently took Ritalin last year and it triggered a positive test. As a result of the positive test, Freeman submitted to frequent drug screenings, leading to his placement in Stage 1 of the league's drug program.
"We are sufficiently concerned about what we've heard to begin an investigation,'' Smith said after a previously scheduled annual meeting with Tampa Bay players.
On Tuesday, Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano was asked by reporters if he was the source of the information and said, "absolutely not."
"I know what I've done. I'm 100 percent comfortable with my behavior, 100 percent," he said.
Smith said his main concern was about the rights of all NFL players.
"We have a collective bargaining agreement that mandates and protects confidentiality and privacy,'' Smith said. "If we believe that any member of team management or anyone from the league has deliberately taken steps to thwart that privacy and to breach that confidentiality, this union will take every step and file every grievance and pursue any law to rectify that. We believe that it's important to maintain the confidentiality.
"I appreciate the manner in which Josh has handled this personally because he is a good young man. But this issue is a bigger issue about what's right with respect to the relationship between players and management. When those issues come to bear, this is a union that will stand up for its players.''
When asked if the league was investigating the leaks, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told Bleacher Report that the league wouldn't comment specifically on Freeman's situation, "but the confidentiality provision of our drug program is critically important and a breach of that confidentiality by any party is a serious violation of our collectively bargained policy.''
On Tuesday, Smith also said the NFLPA has filed a grievance on behalf of Tampa Bay kicker Lawrence Tynes, who was placed on the non-football injury list after being diagnosed with an MRSA staph infection in the preseason. Guard Carl Nicks also had a staph infection but has returned to the team. The Bucs have said they had their facility cleaned twice to prevent any further spread of MRSA.
Smith said the union has "significant concerns about the manner in which that player and perhaps other players' safety was handled by the team."
"It's obviously the beginning of the grievance process and we look forward to working with the league to try to figure out what the facts are and, most importantly, take steps to make sure that they and every team are protecting our players,'' Smith said.