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Falcons’ Jackson suspension still pending

By D. ORLANDO LEDBETTER

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jackson’s appeal of his four-game suspension remains pending before the NFL office, which has requested further information, according to league spokesman Greg Aiello.

“Attorney Jeff Pash has informed him and his representatives that his case is still pending,” Aiello said.

However, six other players were suspended four games Tuesday for violating the NFL’s steroids and related-substances policy, including three players from the New Orleans Saints, the Falcons’ opponent on Sunday.

Aiello said that the league would decide Jackson’s appeal “as soon as possible.”

The Falcons are 8-4 and in the thick of the NFC playoff race. With four games left in the season, Jackson could be in danger of missing a round of the playoffs if his case is not decided before Sunday’s game with the Saints.

“Suspensions are served when they are decided and would include playoff games if applicable,” Aiello said.

The league would not reveal what information they requested from Jackson’s representatives. The league considers that information to be “confidential.”

From the outset, Jackson’s agent Angelo Wright has sought to distinguish Jackson’s case from the other players involved.

“As I’ve said all along, Grady Jackson will keep playing, he was taking medication to assist him in his overall general health,” said Wright, Jackson’s longtime agent of Hayward, Calif.

The Saints players — defensive end Charles Grant, running back Deuce McAllister and defensive end Will Smith — were suspended along with Minnesota defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams and Houston long-snapper Bryan Pittman. All six were suspended without pay.

The Saints (6-6) should not be at a distinct disadvantage for Sunday’s important NFC South Division game against the Falcons.

Grant, a former University of Georgia standout, already is on injured reserve, and McAllister basically is a short-yardage back after two bad knee injuries. Smith, however, is one of the Saints’ top tacklers and has three sacks this season.

The Falcons play Minnesota on Dec. 21. In the game against the Vikings last season, the Williamses practically shut down the Falcons running game and frequently pressured quarterback Joey Harrington.

Wright, who also represents Pat Williams, plans to file an injunction in federal court Wednesday in an attempt to block the league’s enforcement of the suspensions.

The Williamses are so important to the Vikings that team owner Zigi Wilf attended their appeal hearing.

The league contends that the players violated the policy relating to diuretics and water pills, which serve as masking agents for steroids.

Some of the players were scheduled for weigh-ins and were attempting to make weight to earn money covered by incentive clauses in their contracts, according to attorney David Cornwell, who represents the three Saints.

Jackson does not have a weight clause in his contract.

Cornwell contends the league is overzealously enforcing its policy and that it’s clear that his players were not taking anything to enhance their performance.

The league is standing behind the wording of its policy, which includes:

“You and you alone are responsible for what goes into your body. Claiming that you used only legally available nutritional supplements will not help you in an appeal. … Even if they are bought over-the-counter from a known establishment, there is currently no way to be sure that they contain the ingredients listed on the packaging or have not been tainted with prohibited substances … For your own health and success in the league, we strongly encourage you to avoid the use of supplements altogether, or at the very least to be extremely careful about what you choose to take.”

The league also noted that it sent all team presidents, general managers, head trainers and the NFLPA two notices about StarCaps and that the company had been added to the list of banned dietary-supplement companies.

Jackson is suing the manufacturer of StarCaps, alleging that while the supplement is advertised as a natural diet pill, it contained a diuretic banned by the NFL.

The six suspended players are eligible to return to the active roster Dec. 29 and could play if their teams qualify for the playoffs.

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