Bigger, faster and stronger -- the NFL isn't able to hide the fact that players have grown in size and strength significantly over the past thirty years, but the question remains at large of just how these athletes have become so large. There is no shortage of testing for anabolic steroids, performance enhancers such as Adderall and other drugs, but so far, there is no testing for human growth hormone, also known as HGH.
That could be a good thing for a big fraction of the league, as one anonymous NFC starting player came forward to say that as many as 10-15 players on each team are taking the substance to gain lean muscle mass:
"It's like clockwork nowadays," he said, estimating 10-15 players on each team use the banned substance. "Not tested and it's easy to get. Nowadays, dude? In 2013? (Expletive) yeah. I'm just being real."
But the player also wasn't afraid to say that even though HGH is a banned and prescription-only drug, that players should be able to take it if it helps them in their careers:
"I say, just let guys do it," he said. "This is our career. We're putting on for fans. I say . . . HGH isn't anything. I say, do it. . . . You're going to get hit hard regardless whether you're clean or not clean. It's just a matter of how hard you get hit. I don't care who's taking it. A hit is a hit."
Those hits could pack more damage thanks to the drug, but could also perhaps sustain more damage. NFL executive Gil Brandt pointed out that every offensive lineman at the scouting combine this year weighed at least 298 pounds, a total of 58 players. The largest player drafted in 1979 was the 272-pound Sam Claphan, a weight that would hardly get you consideration to start against players that have such a significant size advantage on the other side of the ball.
Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, himself listed at 319 pounds, pointed out that he would like to see a clean game and praised the league's drug-testing policy, while Seahawks All-Pro safety Earl Thomas said that certain players get accolades "when they don't deserve it."
While there has been some debate among fans and observers that there is not a valid test for HGH, league spokesman Greg Aiello was quoted as saying that the test for human growth hormone is "a valid test" and that the league wants to begin testing as soon as possible. But would that be in the best benefit of the NFL, financially? If 20 to 30 percent of the players are using the banned substance, would the league be able to handle the fallout? Many had the same question about Major League Baseball after the league started to test for steroids and increased the penalty for a failed test, but while a few stars have tested positive, the majority of players have done just fine.
It's a risk that the league may have to take eventually, but one that does not appear on the imminent horizon. The league and the union are still far apart on agreeing to an HGH testing policy, with Aiello adding that the union has "refused to agree to begin testing." If the anonymous NFC player is accurate in his estimate of players on the substance, it would be easy to see their hesitancy.