GREEN BAY - Aside from general manager Ted Thompson’s declaration of support for his two embattled stars, there was a deafening silence surrounding the future of Green Bay Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers.
Less than 24 hours after the NFL threw down the gauntlet in front of four players whom it wants to interview as part of an investigation into performance-enhancing drug use, no one was talking about what was next.
Neither the two Packers, who were not available for comment, nor the NFL Players Association, which has fought to prevent the interviews from happening, were commenting on whether the ultimatum the NFL delivered Monday through a letter to the NFLPA would be fought.
It was just Thompson stating at the start of his weekly news conference that he was standing behind his two players and would not be talking about the possible suspension they face until the issue was resolved.
“Before we get started, I’d like touch on a couple of things, specifically the media reports involving Clay and Julius,” Thompson said. “It’s kind of as simple as pie: We’re going to support our players, we’ve always supported our players and we will continue to support our players. This is no different in this case.
“I will have nothing further to say on this matter. Everybody in the world’s going to be talking about it, but I’m not going to have anything to say about (it), the Packers will not have anything to say about it until it gets resolved. You can in the meantime direct your questions to the NFL or the NFLPA.”
The Packers had an open locker room session before Thompson spoke, but neither Matthews nor Peppers were present. Given Thompson’s statement, it would be hard to imagine either player feeling like it was a good idea to address the situation.
Thompson did answer a few questions regarding the ultimatum after making his statement but provided no insight into whether the two players would comply with the NFL’s demands.
Asked if he would have to make contingency plans for Matthews and Peppers not being available come the start of the regular season, Thompson said no.
“Not necessarily specifically them,” he said. “We make contingency plans for all of our players because you never know what’s going to happen in a football game."
The two were told through the letter sent to the NFLPA that they would be suspended if they did not cooperate with the NFL’s investigation into an Al Jazeera report that connected them to an intern at an anti-aging clinic who was quoted as saying he provided illegal substances to them and other professional athletes.
The intern, Charlie Sly, later recanted the comments he made to a reporter posing as a hurdler interested in obtaining performance-enhancing drugs.
Matthews and Peppers both have denied any connection with Sly and maintained they have not violated the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. At the urging of the union, the two have refused to interview with investigators on the grounds the NFL is overstepping its bounds by demanding they cooperate.
By allowing its players to interview, the union feels it would be setting a precedent that commissioner Roger Goodell could compel any player to speak to investigators even if he has not violated the performance-enhancing drug policy. The league has stated the players would be suspended under the conduct detrimental to the league provision in the collective bargaining agreement and not the PED policy.
Both Matthews and Peppers, along with former Packers linebacker Mike Neal, submitted affidavits to the NFL stating what they knew, if anything, about the anti-aging clinic and the intern. The NFL has rejected those statements on the basis that they aren’t detailed enough and don’t allow for follow-up questions.
Thompson said it's hard to understand all the components of the investigation and the players' refusal to participate in interviews.
"What do I make of it?" he said. "I think everybody’s going to have an opinion on things. It is what it is. I’m sure there’s a lot of people that don’t understand what’s going; that would include probably most of the people in this room, including me.
"It’s a little more complicated than you might want it to be. But I think the more people pipe in, especially somebody like me, into the whole serenade, the less likely it is that it will work itself out."