GREEN BAY - Green Bay Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers have both stated unequivocally that they have no connection to an anti-aging clinic and an employee who claimed the two were delivered NFL-banned substances.
Both said Tuesday, the first day of training camp, that they have nothing else to tell NFL investigators because they say the claim is not true.
"I have no idea," Matthews said, when asked what information he could provide. "We asked the same questions (to them). Maybe it's to conduct a formal investigation. I don't know.
"It's annoying, there's no doubt about that."
The NFL and NFL Players Association reportedly are at odds over whether the information the NFL has from an Al-Jazeera report, the most damaging a secretly recorded video of a pharmacist claiming numerous professional athletes had been delivered banned substances, is legitimate enough to warrant an interview.
After the investigative piece appeared on Al-Jazeera, the pharmacist, Charlie Sly, recanted his claim that he provided a masking agent used for averting a positive steroids or HGH test to Peppers and former Packers linebacker Mike Neal and painkillers to Matthews. The NFL has been investigating the claims and it's not clear whether they have any additional evidence or are seeking more from the players.
The union is afraid that allowing the players to be interviewed would set a precedent whereby the NFL could require its employees to be questioned whether there's a preponderance of evidence or not.
"It sets a dangerous precedent, but at the same time, I get it, they have a job to do," Matthews said of the NFL. "But now I'm — and some of these other guys — are in kind of in a whirlwind of controversy. If it was up to me this thing would be behind us a long time ago."
The NFL interviewed retired quarterback Peyton Manning and also examined records he had provided them during its investigation and released a statement Monday stating that it could find no credible evidence Manning had received HGH or other prohibited substances.
The league wanted to interview the Packers players and Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison earlier in the offseason, but likely at the urging of the union they each presented affidavits to the NFL stating what, if anything, they knew. The NFL rejected the affidavits and scheduled interviews for the first day of training camp (except for Neal, who is unsigned).
So far, the league hasn't interviewed any of the players.
"I'm letting the PA handle that," Peppers said, when asked whether he was going to cooperate. "Probably will, but don't really know the details of the process at this moment."
Both Matthews and Peppers said they stand by their statements made Dec. 27 after the story came out that Sly's comments were false and that neither was involved in any way with him or the clinic.
Asked what information the NFL might be seeking from him, Peppers said, "I don't know."
Both said they were trying not to allow the controversy to become a distraction. They took part in practice Tuesday and were made available for interviews specifically to address the situation.
"It's no different than what I said a couple of months ago," Matthews said. "I take a lot of pride in the work that I put in and doing it the right way and nothing has changed from my stance now to then. It's upsetting, but it wouldn't be the first time somebody has said something negative about me, it's just that now it's on a much bigger scale and seems to drag on a little bit here.
"It will be nice when I have my name cleared and we can move on with life. In the meantime, I just kind of put it on the back burner and focus on football."