Matthews, Harrison, Peppers and free agent Mike Neal were all informed by the NFL that they will be suspended immediately if they do not personally cooperate by Aug. 25 with the league’s investigation into allegations raised by an Al Jazeera report. Neal originally did not agreed to be interviewed but later changed his mind, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.
Harrison has agreed to interview only under certain conditions. He wants to limit the questions to the Al-Jazeera report, and also wants to meet with the NFL days after the league’s deadline.
Per the NFLPA, the correct time and place of James Harrison's proposed interview is 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30, at the #Steelers facility.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 18, 2016
Al Jazeera America first raised the allegations in a documentary titled The Dark Side, which shook up the NFL for its implications that Peyton Manning was among those using banned substances to get a leg up on the competition.
While Manning got most of the attention in the report, a few of the most prominent defensive players in the NFL were also named. The report was mostly dismissed after the main subject of the leaks recanted his claims of doping as false. Still, the NFL is thoroughly investigating the claims for themselves before dismissing the allegations.
The continued investigation without much proof to support the claims frustrated the NFLPA, which criticized the league for its attempts to "publicly pressure the players into submission."
Albert Breer of The MMQB tweeted images of a letter from NFLPA associate general counsel Heather McPhee to the NFL’s senior vice president of labor policy Adolpho Birch, which McPhee sent on behalf of James Harrison.
Is the NFL aware of any credible evidence - other than the recanted remarks by one individual shown by Al-Jazeera - that indicates that there is any validity to the remarks about Mr. Harrison?
In the letter, McPhee says that Harrison has asked the league one simple question, and he has yet to receive an answer. She closes by saying that Harrison will cooperate and agree to be interviewed as a "professional decision."
NFLPA president Eric Winston said the decision to cooperate is up to each player involved:
NFLPA president Eric Winston says each player will decide whether to submit to PED interview demand but he would fight, if it were him.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) August 17, 2016
Harrison has made it very clear on social media that he isn’t happy about the way the NFL has proceeded with the investigation, and he continued to protest even after he agreed to be interviewed.
James Harrison suggests TV cameras show his interview w/ NFL officials re Al-Jazeera report live. Says: I have nothing to hide.— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) August 19, 2016
James Harrison says, "I never took a PED in my life. I never failed a drug test. It's simple."— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) August 19, 2016
In July, the league reportedly rejected written affidavits submitted by Harrison, Matthews and Peppers, demanding to speak with each at training camp.
Peyton Manning was interviewed by the league and cooperated throughout its investigation. The NFL determined that Manning did not use PEDs, and he was cleared of any wrongdoing.