WASHINGTON — Two key congressman emerged from an hourlong meeting with the NFL and players union and announced a deal to begin blood-testing players for human growth hormone. Minutes later, union officials would commit only to testing when a fair and safe system is in place — what they've said all along.
After Friday's high-profile mix of sports and politics, HGH testing in pro football didn't seem closer to reality.
"We're not guaranteeing any outcomes except there was an agreement to begin testing immediately," Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said after the meeting. " … We've agreed on a bipartisan basis to have the committee play a role if necessary" to bring the sides together.
Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee, said he felt the sides benefited from being called in.
MARSHALL'S PLAN: Jets coach Rex Ryan, tongue in cheek, supported Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall's announcement that he wants to get booted from Monday night's game. "If he wants to get kicked out of the game in the second quarter," a smiling Ryan said, "I think he should."
But Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie isn't buying it.
The former Florida State standout, friends with UCF's Marshall since their high school days in Florida, calls the receiver "a front-runner" and added, "(He's) got to give you something to write about because there's no talk going on down there because they're 0-4."
League spokesman Greg Aiello told Profootballtalk.com that the league would not send Marshall a warning letter.
BEARS: Defensive end Julius Peppers (sprained left knee) has not practiced all week and is doubtful for Sunday's game. … The league fined safety Brandon Meriweather $25,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit Monday against Detroit. He was fined $20,000 for an illegal hit a week earlier against Carolina and fined $50,000 (later reduced on appeal to $40,000) for an illegal hit last season.
BROWNS: Pro Bowl center Alex Mack returned to practice for the first time since his appendectomy on Oct. 3.
GIANTS: Defensive end Osi Umenyiora counts former teammates Antonio Pierce and Michael Strahan among his best friends, but the recent criticisms the players-turned-TV commentators leveled at Justin Tuck and Brandon Jacobs for not playing through injuries irked Umenyiora. "To hear them come out and say some of the things they said is very, very disappointing and makes me question how real and how authentic they are," he said.
RAIDERS: Coach Hue Jackson said Aaron Curry, a 2009 first-round pick acquired this week from Seattle, will start at weakside linebacker. Also, receiver Louis Murphy, a former Lakewood High and Florida star who has been out since surgery for a sports hernia in training camp, practiced and is expected to make his season debut.
RAVENS: The league fined running back Ray Rice $7,500 for grabbing the face mask of Rams cornerback Bradley Fletcher on Sept. 25. No penalty was called on the play.
TEXANS: Mario Williams, who is out for the season, had surgery on a torn pectoral muscle.
HEIMERDINGER SERVICE: Colleagues and friends paid tribute to former Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger at a private funeral in Nashville. Heimerdinger, who was an NFL assistant for 16 years and receivers coach at Florida in the mid '80s, died Sept. 30 of a rare form of cancer. He was 58.